Two-dimensional moist stratified turbulence and the emergence of vertically sheared horizontal flows

Jai Sukhatme, Andrew J. Majda, Leslie M. Smith

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Moist stratified turbulence is studied in a two-dimensional Boussinesq system influenced by condensation and evaporation. The problem is set in a periodic domain and employs simple evaporation and condensation schemes, wherein both the processes push parcels towards saturation. Numerical simulations demonstrate the emergence of a moist turbulent state consisting of ordered structures with a clear power-law type spectral scaling from initially spatially uncorrelated conditions. An asymptotic analysis in the limit of rapid condensation and strong stratification shows that, for initial conditions with enough water substance to saturate the domain, the equations support a straightforward state of moist balance characterized by a hydrostatic, saturated, vertically sheared horizontal flow (VSHF). For such initial conditions, by means of long time numerical simulations, the emergence of moist balance is verified. Specifically, starting from uncorrelated data, subsequent to the development of a moist turbulent state, the system experiences a rather abrupt transition to a regime which is close to saturation and dominated by a strong VSHF. On the other hand, initial conditions which do not have enough water substance to saturate the domain, do not attain moist balance. Rather, the system is observed to remain in a turbulent state and oscillates about moist balance. Even though balance is not achieved with these general initial conditions, the time scale of oscillation about moist balance is much larger than the imposed time scale of condensation and evaporation, thus indicating a distinct dominant slow component in the moist stratified two-dimensional turbulent system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number036602
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 14 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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