Prograde, retrograde, and oscillatory modes in rotating Rayleigh-Bénard convection

Susanne Horn, Peter J. Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Rotating Rayleigh-Bénard convection is typified by a variety of regimes with very distinct flow morphologies that originate from several instability mechanisms. Here we present results from direct numerical simulations of three representative set-ups: first, a fluid with Prandtl number , corresponding to water, in a cylinder with a diameter-to-height aspect ratio of ; second, a fluid with , corresponding to or air, confined in a slender cylinder with ; and third, the main focus of this paper, a fluid with , corresponding to a liquid metal, in a cylinder with . The obtained flow fields are analysed using the sparsity-promoting variant of the dynamic mode decomposition (DMD). By means of this technique, we extract the coherent structures that govern the dynamics of the flow, as well as their associated frequencies. In addition, we follow the temporal evolution of single modes and present a criterion to identify their direction of travel, i.e. whether they are precessing prograde or retrograde. We show that for moderate a few dynamic modes suffice to accurately describe the flow. For large aspect ratios, these are wall-localised waves that travel retrograde along the periphery of the cylinder. Their DMD frequencies agree with the predictions of linear stability theory. With increasing Rayleigh number , the interior gradually fills with columnar vortices, and eventually a regular pattern of convective Taylor columns prevails. For small aspect ratios and close enough to onset, the dominant flow structures are body modes that can precess either prograde or retrograde. For , DMD additionally unveiled the existence of so far unobserved low-amplitude oscillatory modes. Furthermore, we elucidate the multi-modal character of oscillatory convection in low- fluids. Generally, more dynamic modes must be retained to accurately approximate the flow. Close to onset, the flow is purely oscillatory and the DMD reveals that these high-frequency modes are a superposition of oscillatory columns and cylinder-scale inertial waves. We find that there are coexisting prograde and retrograde modes, as well as quasi-axisymmetric torsional modes. For higher , the flow also becomes unstable to wall modes. These low-frequency modes can both coexist with the oscillatory modes, and also couple to them. However, the typical flow feature of rotating convection at moderate , the quasi-steady Taylor vortices, is entirely absent in low- flows.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-211
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Nov 25 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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