Homogeneous, approximately isotropic turbulence at two Taylor-scale Reynolds numbers, Rλ = 50, 190, with a mean transverse temperature gradient is passed through an axisymmetric contraction. The effects of the straining on the velocity field, and on the passive scalar field, are investigated within the contraction as are the effects of releasing the strain in the post-contraction region. Components of the fluctuating velocity and scalar gradient covariance are measured in order to understand their relation to the large-scale anisotropy of the flow. The scale-dependent spectral evolution of the scalar is also determined. A tensor model is constructed to predict the evolution of the fluctuating scalar gradient covariance. The model constants are determined in the post-contraction relaxation region, where the flow geometry does not vary. The model is shown to perform well throughout the flow, even in the contraction in which the geometry varies. Rapid distortion theory is applied to the scalar field in the contraction, and its solutions are compared to the experimental results. © 2009 Cambridge University Press.
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