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Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds Over B'ham



The Kelvin–Helmholtz instability, after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, can occur when velocity shear is present within a continuous fluid, or when there is sufficient velocity difference across the interface between two fluids. One example is wind blowing over a water surface, where the wind causes the relative motion between the stratified layers (i.e., water and air). The instability will manifest itself in the form of waves being generated on the water surface. The waves can appear in numerous fluids and have been spotted in clouds, Saturn's bands, waves in the ocean, and in the sun's corona.


The theory can be used to predict the onset of instability and transition to turbulent flow in fluids of different densities moving at various speeds. Helmholtz studied the dynamics of two fluids of different densities when a small disturbance such as a wave is introduced at the boundary connecting the fluids.

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