Emanuel, Kerry Andrew Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Vorticity and invertibility
- Barotropic instability
- Baroclinic instability
- Other instabilities
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A state of fluid flow in which the distribution of mass and momentum is unstable. Fluid flows are subject to a variety of instabilities which generally cause the flow to become more complex and which often lead to turbulent, chaotic flow. Instabilities are responsible for a variety of phenomena in natural flows, including cyclones, hurricanes, and thunderstorms in the atmosphere; mantle convection in the Earth's interior; and granules and supergranules in stellar atmospheres. A great deal of research in the geophysical and astrophysical sciences has focused on flow instabilities; and instability plays an important role in engineering problems ranging from naval engineering and aeronautics to the design of efficient heating and cooling systems. See also: Fluid mechanics; Turbulent flow
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