Shock Waves

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 27–35 | Cite as

The reality of artificial viscosity

  • L. G. MargolinEmail author
Original Article


Artificial viscosity is used in the computer simulation of high Reynolds number flows and is one of the oldest numerical artifices. In this paper, I will describe the origin and the interpretation of artificial viscosity as a physical phenomenon. The basis of this interpretation is the finite scale theory, which describes the evolution of integral averages of the fluid solution over finite (length) scales. I will outline the derivation of finite scale Navier–Stokes equations and highlight the particular properties of the equations that depend on the finite scales. Those properties include enslavement, inviscid dissipation, and a law concerning the partition of total flux of conserved quantities into advective and diffusive components.


Artificial viscosity Computational fluid dynamics Finite scale 



I gratefully acknowledge the many people who have contributed to the development of the finite scale theory. In particular, I call out the seminal ideas contributed by Jay Boris, Bill Rider, and Piotr Smolarkiewicz. I thank the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program for their support. This work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy’s NNSA by the Los Alamos National Laboratory operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC under Contract Number DE-AC52-06NA25396.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computational Physics Division (XCP)Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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