Laminar flow

From Glossary of Meteorology

laminar flow

(Also called sheet flow, streamline flow.) A flow regime in which fluid motion is smooth and orderly, and in which adjacent layers or laminas slip past each other with little mixing between them.

Exchange of material across laminar layers occurs by molecular diffusion, a process about 106 times less effective than turbulence. Laminar flow can be easily predicted as velocity increases at a steady rate from a boundary. This contrasts with the chaotic and random nature of turbulent flow. Laminar flow is not a common occurrence in the statically neutral and unstable atmosphere and is confined to a very thin layer (1 mm) adjacent to very smooth surfaces such as snow and ice. However, in strongly statically stable regions such as the the nocturnal boundary layer, the Richardson number can be large enough that turbulence is suppressed, and the flow is laminar over a layer many tens of meters thick.