Three-dimensional fully spectral numerical method for mantle convection with depth-dependent properties

S. Balachandar, D. A. Yuen

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A semi-implicit fully spectral collocation method for the simulation of three-dimensional mantle convection with depth-dependent thermodynamic and transport properties is presented. The variable property Navier-Stokes equation expressed in terms of the primitive variable velocity and pressure is solved with the mass continuity and temperature equations. The periodic horizontal boundary conditions allow a Fourier expansion for the two horizontal directions. The stress-free, impermeable isothermal boundary conditions along with the depth dependent coefficients are handled with a Chebyshev expansion in the vertical direction. In the limit of an infinite Prandtl number appropriate to mantle convection, the inertial terms in the momentum equation are unimportant. In this case an explicit solution of a Poisson equation for pressure can be avoided; instead a fourth-order equation for vertical velocity can be solved. Simultaneous imposition of both impermeable and continuity boundary conditions during the vertical velocity evaluation is discussed. The pressure distributions on the top and bottom bounding planes were determined by means of an influence matrix technique. The numerical method employed here avoids time-splitting errors and enforces velocity boundary conditions and continuity over the entire domain, including the boundaries, to machine accuracy. Strongy time-dependent three-dimensional solutions up to a surface Rayleigh number of 1 × 107 have been obtained. Strong upwellings, pulsating chaotically, are formed by the collective merging of cylindrical plumes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-74
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1994


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