Turbulent Convection at Very High Rayleigh Numbers and the Weakly Nonlinear Theory

Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, Joseph J. Niemela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To provide insights into the challenging problem of turbulent convection, Jack Herring used a greatly truncated version of the complete Boussinesq equations containing only one horizontal wavenumber. In light of later observations of a robust large-scale circulation sweeping through convecting enclosures at high Rayleigh numbers, it is perhaps not an implausible point of view from which to reexamine high-Rayleigh-number data. Here we compare past experimental data on convective heat transport at high Rayleigh numbers with predictions from Herring’s model and, in fact, find excellent agreement. The model has only one unknown parameter compared to the two free parameters present in the lowest-order least-squares power-law fit. We discuss why the underlying simplistic physical picture, meant to work at Rayleigh numbers slightly past the critical value of a few thousand, is consistent with the data when the single free parameter in it is revised, over some eleven decades of the Rayleigh number—stretching from about a million to about (Formula presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number826
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • heat transport
  • high-Rayleigh-number asymptote
  • turbulent convection
  • ultimate state of convection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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