Cloud patterns and mixing properties in shallow moist Rayleigh- Bénard convection

Thomas Weidauer, Olivier Pauluis, Jörg Schumacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three-dimensional direct numerical simulations of idealized moist turbulent Rayleigh-Bénard convection are presented. The thermodynamics of moist air is linearized close to the phase boundary between water vapor and liquid water. This formulation allows for a simplified saturation condition for the cloud formation, but omits supersaturation and rain. The sensitivity of this problem to changes of the Rayleigh number, the aspect ratio of the convection layer and the water vapor concentration is studied. The Rayleigh number is found to impact the behavior of the system in multiple ways. First, the relaxation time toward a well-mixed turbulent state increases with the Rayleigh number. Similarly, the flow exhibits a higher spatial and temporal intermittency at higher Rayleigh number. This is in line with an enhanced intermittency of the upward buoyancy flux, which we quantify by a multifractal analysis. In addition, phase transition introduces an asymmetry in the distribution of the thermodynamic properties of the well-mixed state. This asymmetry is most pronounced in layers where clouds are partially present. Furthermore, the geometrical properties of the cloud formations averaged with respect to the height of the layer are studied. Similar to isocontours in scalar mixing, the boundaries of isolated clouds show no strict (mono-)fractal behavior. The results of the perimeter-area analysis of the largest isolated clouds agree well with those of large eddy simulations of cumulus convection. This perimeter-area scaling is also similar to that of percolation processes in a plane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105002
JournalNew Journal of Physics
StatePublished - Oct 7 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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