Breakdown of the large-scale circulation in Γ = 1/2 rotating Rayleigh-Bénard flow

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Experiments and simulations of rotating Rayleigh-Bénard convection in cylindrical samples have revealed an increase in heat transport with increasing rotation rate. This heat transport enhancement is intimately related to a transition in the turbulent flow structure from a regime dominated by a large-scale circulation (LSC), consisting of a single convection roll, at no or weak rotation to a regime dominated by vertically aligned vortices at strong rotation. For a sample with an aspect ratio Γ=D/L=1 (D is the sample diameter and L is its height) the transition between the two regimes is indicated by a strong decrease in the LSC strength. In contrast, for Γ=1/2, Weiss and Ahlers J. Fluid Mech. 688 461 (2011)] revealed the presence of a LSC-like sidewall temperature signature beyond the critical rotation rate. They suggested that this might be due to the formation of a two-vortex state, in which one vortex extends vertically from the bottom into the sample interior and brings up warm fluid while another vortex brings down cold fluid from the top; this flow field would yield a sidewall temperature signature similar to that of the LSC. Here we show by direct numerical simulations for Γ=1/2 and parameters that allow direct comparison with experiment that the spatial organization of the vertically aligned vortical structures in the convection cell do indeed yield (for the time average) a sinusoidal variation of the temperature near the sidewall, as found in the experiment. This is also the essential and nontrivial difference with the Γ=1 sample, where the vertically aligned vortices are distributed randomly.
Original languageEnglish
Article number056311
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical review E: Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • EWI-23953
  • IR-82519
  • METIS-289993
  • MACS-MMS: Multiscale Modelling and Simulation


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