The multifractal nature of turbulent energy dissipation

Charles Meneveau, K. R. Sreenivasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The intermittency of the rate of turbulent energy dissipation e is investigated experimentally, with special emphasis on its scale-similar facets. This is done using a general formulation in terms of multifractals, and by interpreting measurements in that light. The concept of multiplicative processes in turbulence is (heuristically) shown to lead to multifractal distributions, whose formalism is described in some detail. To prepare proper ground for the interpretation of experimental results, a variety of cascade models is reviewed and their physical contents are analysed qualitatively. Point-probe measurements of e are made in several laboratory flows and in the atmospheric surface layer, using Taylor’s frozen-flow hypothesis. The multifractal spectrum f(α) of e is measured using different averaging techniques, and the results are shown to be in essential agreement among themselves and with our earlier ones. Also, long data sets obtained in two laboratory flows are used to obtain the latent part of the f(α) curve, confirming Mandelbrot’s idea that it can in principle be obtained from linear cuts through a three-dimensional distribution. The tails of distributions of box-averaged dissipation are found to be of the square-root exponential type, and the implications of this finding for the f(a) distribution are discussed. A comparison of the results to a variety of cascade models shows that binomial models give the simplest possible mechanism that reproduces most of the observations. Generalizations to multinomial models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-484
Number of pages56
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Mar 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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