The K-type and H-type transitions of a natural convection boundary layer of a fluid of Prandtl number 7 adjacent to an isothermally heated vertical surface are investigated by means of three-dimensional direct numerical simulation (DNS). These two types of transitions refer to different flow features at the transitional stage from laminar to turbulence caused by two different types of perturbations. To excite the K-type transition, superimposed Tollmien–Schlichting (TS) and oblique waves of the same frequency are introduced into the boundary layer. It is found that a three-layer longitudinal vortex structure is present in the boundary layer undergoing the K-type transition. The typical aligned $\wedge$ -shaped vortices characterizing the K-type transition are observed for the first time in pure natural convection boundary layers. For exciting the H-type transition, superimposed TS and oblique waves of different frequencies, with the frequency of the oblique waves being half of the frequency of the TS waves, are introduced into the boundary layer. Unlike the three-layer longitudinal vortex structure observed in the K-type transition, a double-layer longitudinal vortex structure is observed in the boundary layer undergoing the H-type transition. The successively staggered $\wedge$ -shaped vortices characterizing the H-type transition are also observed in the downstream boundary layer. The staggered pattern of $\wedge$ -shaped vortices is considered to be caused by temporal modulation of the TS and oblique waves. Interestingly the flow structures of both the K-type and H-type transitions observed in the natural convection boundary layer are qualitatively similar to those observed in Blasius boundary layers. However, an analysis of turbulence energy production suggests that the turbulence energy production by buoyancy rather than Reynolds stresses dominates the K-type and H-type transitions. In contrast, the turbulence energy production by Reynolds stresses is the only factor contributing to the transition in Blasius boundary layers.
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