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The Material Derivative

The equations above apply to a uid element which is a small

blob of uid that contains the same material at all times as
the uid moves.
Figure 1. A uid element, often
called a material element. Fluid
elements are small blobs of uid
that always contain the same
material. They are deformed as
they move but they are not broken
up.
Consider a property (e.g. temperature, density, velocity com-
ponent) of the uid element. In general, this will depend on the
time, t, and on the position (x, y, z) of the uid element at that
time. So
= (x, y, z, t) = (r, t) .
Now suppose we move with the uid element which has coordi-
nates (x (t) , y (t) , z (t)) .
In a small time t, suppose that the element moves from (x, y, z)
to (x + x, y + y, z + z) (see Fig. 2). There will be a corre-
sponding small change in , denoted by .
Figure 2. A uid element moves
from (x, y, z) to
(x + x, y + y, z + z) in time t.
It contains exactly the same
material at the two times.
=

t
t +

x
x +

y
y +

z
z.
The observed rate of change of for that uid element will be
d
dt
=

t
+

x
dx
dt
+

y
dy
dt
+

z
dz
dt
.
The velocity of the uid element is its rate of change of position
dr
dt
= u = (u, v, w) =
_
dx
dt
,
dy
dt
,
dz
dt
_
.
Hence
d
dt
=

t
+ u

x
+ v

y
+ w

z
=

t
+u..
Note:
(i)u. is dened by the Cartesian expansion
u. u

x
+ v

y
+ w

z
.
(ii)d/dt is the rate of change of moving with the uid
element.
(iii)/t is the rate of change of at a xed point in space.
In uid dynamics, the time rate of change for a uid element is
usually denoted by D/Dt. Thus
D
Dt

t
+u.. (Denition of
D
Dt
.)
D/Dt is often called the material derivative or Lagrangian deriva-
tive.
In section 2.1 the volume of gas under consideration was in
fact a uid element in a ow and so we could divide through
by dt in equation for adiabatic expansion contraction (equation
(2.8)) and note that for a uid element dP/dt = DP/Dt. Hence
DP
Dt
=
P

D
Dt
.
The Continuity Equation (Conservation of Mass)
Matter cannot be made or destroyed, and so the total mass of
a uid element must remain the same. Thus if the density of
a uid element decreases, its volume must expand accordingly.
This expansion causes a divergence of the velocity eld, giving
the conservation equation
D
Dt
+ .u = 0.
where
divu = u =
u
x
+
v
y
+
w
z
Eq. (2.15) is called the continuity equation. A detailed deriva-
tion of this equation can be found in most textbooks on uid
mechanics. If the density of the uid is constant, approximately
true of most liquids including water, then equation (2.15) re-
duces to
.u = 0
and the uid is said to be incompressible.
Equations of Motion (Momentum Equations)
The equation of motion (Newtons second law) for a uid ele-
ment is:
Rate of change of momentum of uid element = Total force acting on it.
The forces acting on a material element of volume V are:
(a) The pressure gradient force, generated by dierences in
pressure.
PV (2.17)
(b) The gravitational force,
V
g
(2.18)
(c) The viscous force, due to friction between uid elements.
For a Newtonian uid (such as air or water)

2
u +
1
3
(.u)
_
V (2.19)
where

2
u =

2
u
x
2
1
+

2
u
x
2
2
+

2
u
x
2
3
=

2
u
x
2
+

2
u
y
2
+

2
u
z
2
and is a constant, called the kinematic viscosity. In other
uid mechanics courses you may have been introduced to
the dynamic viscosity = . The kinematic viscosity of
air is approximately 1.410
5
m
2
s
1
at atmospheric pressure
and for water it is roughly 10
6
m
2
s
1
.
The mass of a uid element cannot change, therefore
Rate of change of momentum = m
Du
Dt
=
Du
Dt
V.
Putting all these components together and dividing by V we
obtain
Du
Dt
=
1

P
g
+
_

2
u +
1
3
(.u)

.
In this form, the equation of motion is usually called the
Navier-Stokes equation.
Transformation to a Rotating Frame of Reference
Newtons laws of motion and therefore the Navier-Stokes equa-
tion apply only in an inertial frame of reference. When con-
sidering the ow of rotating bodies such as the Earth (or other
rotating bodies such as the sun or galaxies), it is convenient to
choose coordinate axes which rotate with the body e.g. xed
relative to the Earth. There are 2 reasons:
(i) avoids considering the large tangential velocity associated
with the rotation of the Earth (or other body).
(ii) the atmosphere and oceans are observed from the rotat-
ing frame of reference.
Note:
The Earth rotates about an axis through the poles with angular
velocity .
|| = 7.27 10
5
s
1
= 2day
1
and so we must modify the Navier-Stokes equation.
Let
u
I
= velocity in inertial frame of reference.
u
R
= velocity in rotating frame of reference.
By denition
u
I
= u
R
+r.
This can be written as
_
dr
dt
_
I
=
_
dr
dt
_
R
+r
and the above is a special case of
_
dA
dt
_
I
=
_
dA
dt
_
R
+A
where Ais an arbitrary vector (see e.g. Gills book). Applying
_
d
dt
_
I
to u
I
, we get
_
du
dt
_
I
=
_
d
dt
(u
R
+r)
_
R
+(u
R
+r) .
Hence
_
du
dt
_
I
=
_
du
dt
_
R
+ 2u
R
+(r) .
Applying this to a uid element (and dropping the subscript R
for convenience), we get the Navier-Stokes equation in a rotating
frame of reference:
Du
Dt
+ 2u =
1

P (r)
+
_

2
u +
1
3
(.u)
_
.
(i) (r) =
1
2
(r)
2
is the centripetal acceleration
and can be combined with the gravitational potential to
form the geo-potential
=
g

1
2
(r)
2
(2.24)
The gradient g = is the eective gravity corrected
for the centrifugal acceleration. However, the corrections to
g due to the centrifugal acceleration are very small (How
small?) so that g is approximately constant (variations in g
caused by the variation in the Earths radius are as impor-
tant).
(ii) 2u is the Coriolis Force.
Thus the appropriate equation of motion to use in a rotating
frame of reference is
Du
Dt
+ 2u =
1

P +g +
_

2
u +
1
3
(.u)
_