The influence of compressibility upon the structure of homogeneous sheared turbulence is investigated. For the case in which the rate of shear is much larger than the rate of nonlinear interactions of the turbulence, the modification caused by compressibility to the amplification of turbulent kinetic energy by the mean shear is found to be primarily reflected in pressure-strain correlations and related to the anisotropy of the Reynolds stress tensor, rather than in explicit dilatational terms such as the pressure- dilatation correlation or the dilatational dissipation. The central role of a `distortion Mach number' Md = S?=a, where S is the mean strain or shear rate, ? a lengthscale of energetic structures, and a the sonic speed, is demonstrated. This parameter has appeared in previous rapid-distortion-theory (RDT) and direct-numerical-simulation (DNS) studies; in order to generalize the previous analyses, the quasi-isentropic compressible RDT equations are numerically solved for homogeneous turbulence subjected to spherical (isotropic) compression, one-dimensional (axial) compression and pure shear. For pure-shear flow at finite Mach number, the RDT results display qualitatively different behaviour at large and small non-dimensional times St: when St < 4 the kinetic energy growth rate increases as the distortion Mach number increases; for St > 4 the inverse occurs, which is consistent with the frequently observed tendency for compressibility to stabilize a turbulent shear flow. This `crossover' behaviour, which is not present when the mean distortion is irrotational, is due to the kinematic distortion and the mean-shear-induced linear coupling of the dilatational and solenoidal fields. The relevance of the RDT is illustrated by comparison to the recent DNS results of Sarkar (1995), as well as new DNS data, both of which were obtained by solving the fully nonlinear compressible Navier-Stokes equations. The linear quasi-isentropic RDT and nonlinear non-isentropic DNS solutions are in good general agreement over a wide range of parameters; this agreement gives new insight into the stabilizing and destabilizing effects of compressibility, and reveals the extent to which linear processes are responsible for modifying the structure of compressible turbulence
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