in fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is fluid motion characterized by chaotic changes in pressure and flow velocity. it is in contrast to a laminar flow, which occurs when a fluid flows in parallel layers, with no disruption between those layers.
turbulence is commonly observed in everyday phenomena such as surf, fast flowing rivers, billowing storm clouds, or smoke from a chimney, and most fluid flows occurring in nature or created in engineering applications are turbulent.:2 turbulence is caused by excessive kinetic energy in parts of a fluid flow, which overcomes the damping effect of the fluid's viscosity. for this reason turbulence is commonly realized in low viscosity fluids. in general terms, in turbulent flow, unsteady vortices appear of many sizes which interact with each other, consequently drag due to friction effects increases. this increases the energy needed to pump fluid through a pipe. turbulence can be exploited, for example, by devices such as aerodynamic spoilers on aircraft that "spoil" the laminar flow to increase drag and reduce lift.
the onset of turbulence can be predicted by the dimensionless reynolds number, the ratio of kinetic energy to viscous damping in a fluid flow. however, turbulence has long resisted detailed physical analysis, and the interactions within turbulence create a very complex phenomenon. richard feynman has described turbulence as the most important unsolved problem in classical physics.