Large-scale thermal motions of turbulent Rayleigh–Bénard convection in a wide aspect-ratio cylindrical domain

P. J. Sakievich, Yulia Peet, Ronald Adrian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The large-scale structures that occur in turbulent Rayleigh-Bénard convection in a wide-aspect-ratio cylindrical domain are studied by means of direct numerical simulation. The simulation is performed in a 6.3 aspect-ratio cylindrical cell with a Rayleigh number of 9.6 × 107 and Prandtl number equal to 6.7. Single-point and double-point statistics compare well against experimental results under nearly identical conditions. Large-scale thermal motions with coherence times exceeding 20 eddy-turnovers (∼600 free-fall time units) are seen in the instantaneous fields. Temporally filtering them by integrating over approximately one eddy-turnover time scale reveals a clear pattern consisting of seven discrete thermal structures: three warm, rising sectors, three cool, falling sectors and a single plume of warm, rising fluid that wanders around the center of the cylindrical cell. Smoothing over still longer times (10 and 20 eddy turn-over time scales) yields a clear hub-and-spoke pattern of warm and cool sectors in a dominantly 120° periodic pattern separated by concentrations of radial vortex lines (the spokes) plus a nearly circular plume at the center of the test section (the hub). The similarity of the patterns in the instantaneous fields and the long-time smoothed fields demonstrates long persistence of these structures, a defining characteristic of coherent structures in turbulence. The warm and cool sectors are intimately linked with conical roll-cells rotating about the spokes, and these circulations are likely the analogs of the ‘wind of turbulence’ found in low-aspect-ratio RBC experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Fluid Flow
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Coherent structures
  • Rayleigh-Bénard
  • Thermal convection
  • Turbulence
  • Wide aspect ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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