Two simulation images of stratified turbulence -- a phenomenon that occurs when lighter fluids flow above heavier fluids. Lighter colors represent denser fluids.
Image Credits: NASA/JPL
These two simulation images reveal the complex interactions of two flows: a lighter fluid that initially flows atop a denser fluid underneath. This phenomenon commonly occurs in geophysical settings such as ocean currents.
When these two flows interact, a battle between two forces emerges, according to the research behind these images. Faster moving fluids in the top layer introduce shear forces that cause turbulence. Meanwhile, the difference between the heavier bottom fluid and the lighter fluid tends to stabilize the system.
According to the description provided by NASA/JPL researchers Georgios Matheou and Daniel Chung, the top image shows this turbulence. If the two fluids become increasingly dissimilar in density, however, the turbulence will eventually collapse, as shown in the bottom image.