Ordering of timescales predicts applicability of quasi-linear theory in unstable flows


We discuss the applicability of quasilinear-type approximations for a turbulent system with a large range of spatial and temporal scales. We consider a paradigm fluid system of rotating convection with a vertical and horizontal temperature gradients. In particular, the interaction of rotating with the horizontal temperature gradient drives a ``thermal wind’’ shear flow whose strength is controlled by a horizontal temperature gradient. Varying the parameters systematically alters the ordering of the shearing timescale, the convective timescale, and the correlation timescale. We demonstrate that quasilinear-type approximations work well when the shearing timescale or the correlation timescale is sufficiently short. In all cases, the Generalised Quasilinear approximation (GQL) systematically outperforms the Quasilinear approximation (QL). We discuss the consequences for statistical theories of turbulence interacting with mean gradients. We conclude with comments about the general applicability of these ideas across a wide variety of non-linear physical systems.

arXiv e-prints