Angular redistribution of nonlinear perturbations: A universal feature of nonuniform flows
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Classically, the net action of nonlinear turbulent processes is interpreted as either a direct or inverse cascade. However, in nonuniform/shear flows the dominant process is a nonlinear redistribution over wave number angle of perturbation spatial Fourier harmonics. We call this process a nonlinear transverse redistribution (NTR). This phenomenon is demonstrated for a simple two-dimensional constant shear (non-normal) flow by numerically simulating the nonlinear dynamics of coherent and stochastic vortical perturbations in the flow. NTR is a general feature of nonlinear processes that should manifest itself in nonuniform engineering, environmental, and astrophysical flows. The conventional characterization of turbulence in terms of direct and inverse cascades, which ignores NTR, appears to be misleading for shear flow turbulence. We focus on the action of nonlinear processes on the spectral energy. NTR redistributes perturbations over different quadrants of the wave number plane and the interplay of this nonlinear redistribution with linear phenomena becomes intricate: it can realize either positive or negative feedback. In the case of positive feedback, it repopulates the quadrants in wave number space where the shear flow induces linear transient growth.