Adiabatic heating of contracting turbulent fluids

Brant Robertson, Peter Goldreich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Turbulence influences the behavior of many astrophysical systems, frequently by providing non-thermal pressure support through random bulk motions. Although turbulence is commonly studied in systems with constant volume and mean density, turbulent astrophysical gases often expand or contract under the influence of pressure or gravity. Here, we examine the behavior of turbulence in contracting volumes using idealized models of compressed gases. Employing numerical simulations and an analytical model, we identify a simple mechanism by which the turbulent motions of contracting gases "adiabatically heat," experiencing an increase in their random bulk velocities until the largest eddies in the gas circulate over a Hubble time of the contraction. Adiabatic heating provides a mechanism for sustaining turbulence in gases where no large-scale driving exists. We describe this mechanism in detail and discuss some potential applications to turbulence in astrophysical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL13
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2012


  • hydrodynamics
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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