A study of four previously published computational criteria for identifying vortices in high-pressure flows has led to the selection of one of them as the best. This development can be expected to contribute to understanding of high-pressure flows, which occur in diverse settings, including diesel, gas turbine, and rocket engines and the atmospheres of Jupiter and other large gaseous planets.
Information on the atmospheres of gaseous planets consists mainly of visual and thermal images of the flows over the planets. Also, validation of recently proposed computational models of high-pressure flows entails comparison with measurements, which are mainly of visual nature. Heretofore, the interpretation of images of high-pressure flows to identify vortices has been based on experience with low-pressure flows. However, high-pressure flows have features distinct from those of low-pressure flows, particularly in regions of high pressure gradient magnitude caused by dynamic turbulent effects and by thermodynamic mixing of chemical species. Therefore, interpretations based on low-pressure behavior may lead to misidentification of vortices and other flow structures in high-pressure flows. The study reported here was performed in recognition of the need for one or more quantitative criteria for identifying coherent flow structures — especially vortices — from previously generated flow-field data, to complement or supersede the determination of flow structures by visual inspection of instantaneous fields or flow animations. The focus in the study was on correlating visible images of flow features with various quantities computed from flow-field data.