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Numerical simulation of an asymptotically reduced system for rotationally constrained convection


For rotationally constrained convection, the Taylor–Proudman theorem enforces an organization of nonlinear flows into tall columnar or compact plume structures. While coherent structures in convection under moderate rotation are exclusively cyclonic, recent experiments for rapid rotation have revealed a transition to equal populations of cyclonic and anticyclonic structures. Direct numerical simulation (DNS) of this regime is expensive, however, and existing simulations have yet to reveal anticyclonic vortical structures. In this paper, we use a reduced system of equations for rotationally constrained convection valid in the asymptotic limit of thin columnar structures and rapid rotation to perform numerical simulation of Rayleigh–Bénard convection in an infinite layer rotating uniformly about the vertical axis. Visualization indicates the existence of cyclonic and anticyclonic vortical populations for all parameters examined. Moreover, it is found that the flow evolves through three distinct regimes with increasing Rayleigh number (Ra). For small, but supercritical Ra, the flow is dominated by a cellular system of hot and cold columns spanning the fluid layer. As Ra increases, the number density of these columns decreases, the up-and down-drafts within them strengthen and the columns develop opposite-signed ‘sleeves’ in all fields. The resulting columns are highly efficient at transporting heat across the fluid layer. In the final regime, lateral mixing plays a dominant role in the interior and the columnar structure is destroyed. However, thermal plumes are still injected and rejected from the thermal boundary layers. We identify the latter two regimes with the vortex-grid and geostrophic turbulence regimes, respectively. Within these regimes, we investigate convective heat transport (measured by the Nusselt number), mean temperature profiles, and root-mean-square profiles of the temperature, vertical velocity and vertical vorticity anomalies. For all Prandtl numbers investigated, the mean temperature saturates in a non-isothermal profile as Ra increases owing to intense lateral mixing.

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Journal of Fluid Mechanics
  • ISSN: 0022-1120
  • EISSN: 1469-7645
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics
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