The onset of convection in an unsteady thermal boundary layer in a porous medium

Biliana Bidin, D A S Rees

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In this study, the linear stability of an unsteady thermal boundary layer in a semi-infinite porous medium is considered. This boundary layer is induced by varying the temperature of the horizontal boundary sinusoidally in time about the ambient temperature of the porous medium; this mimics diurnal heating and cooling from above in subsurface groundwater. Thus if instability occurs, this will happen in those regions where cold fluid lies above hot fluid, and this is not necessarily a region that includes the bounding surface. A linear stability analysis is performed using small-amplitude disturbances of the form of monochromatic cells with wavenumber, k. This yields a parabolic system describing the time-evolution of small-amplitude disturbances which are solved using the Keller box method. The critical Darcy-Rayleigh number as a function of the wavenumber is found by iterating on the Darcy-Rayleigh number so that no mean growth occurs over one forcing period. It is found that the most dangerous disturbance has a period which is twice that of the underlying basic state. Cells that rotate clockwise at first tend to rise upwards from the surface and weaken, but they induce an anticlockwise cell near the surface at the end of one forcing period, which is otherwise identical to the clockwise cell found at the start of that forcing period.
Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016


  • convection
  • linear instability
  • Keller box
  • porous medium
  • subharmonic
  • boundary layer


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