Texas Tech University

Penetrative convection in slender containers


An experimental study was conducted to investigate the penetration of a convective mixed layer into an overlying stably (solutally) stratified layer contained in a narrow, tall vessel when the fluid is subjected to a destabilizing heat flux from below. The interest was the evolution of the bottom mixed-layer height (ℎ) with time (t) in the presence of side-wall effects, but without the formation of conventional double-diffusive layers. The side-wall effects are expected at small mixed-layer aspect ratios, Γh=(W/h) , where W is the container width. This case has not been studied hitherto, although there are important environmental and industrial applications. The mixed-layer growth laws for low aspect ratio convection were formulated by assuming a balance between the vertical kinetic energy flux at the interface and the rate of change of potential energy of the fluid system due to turbulent entrainment. The effects of sidewalls were considered using similarity arguments, by taking characteristic rms velocities to be a function of Γh, in addition to buoyancy flux (q0) and ℎ. In all stages of evolution, the similarity variables ξ=h/W and t′=Nt/A, where A=N3W2/4q0 and N is the buoyancy frequency, scaled the mixed-layer evolution data remarkably well. Significant wall effects were noted when Γh < 1, and for this case the interfacial vertical turbulent velocity and length scales were identified via scaling arguments and experimental data.


Suhas U. Pol & Harindra J. S. Fernando


Penetrative convection, Mixed layer growth, Wall effects

Publication Type

Journal Article

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Full Citation

Pol, S. U., & Fernando, H. J. (2017). Penetrative convection in slender containers. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 17(4), 799-814.

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Renewable Energy