High-Fidelity Simulations of Gravity Currents Using a High-Order Finite-Difference Spectral Vanishing Viscosity Approach

Ricardo Frantz, Georgios Deskos, Sylvain Laizet, Jorge Silvestrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus Citations


This numerical work investigates the potential of a high-order finite-difference spectral vanishing viscosity approach to simulate gravity currents at high Reynolds numbers. The method introduces targeted numerical dissipation at small scales through altering the discretisation of the second derivatives of the viscous terms in the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations to mimic the spectral vanishing viscosity (SVV) operator, originally designed for the regularisation of spectral element method (SEM) solutions of pure advection problems. Using a sixth-order accurate finite-difference scheme, the adoption of the SVV method is straightforward and comes with a negligible additional computational cost. In order to assess the ability of this high-order finite-difference spectral vanishing viscosity approach, we performed large-eddy simulations (LES) of a gravity current in a channelised lock-exchange set-up with our SVV model and with the well-known explicit static and dynamic Smagorinsky sub-grid scale (SGS) models. The obtained data are compared with a direct numerical simulation (DNS) based on more than 800 million mesh nodes, and with experimental measurements. A framework for the energy budget is introduced to investigate the behaviour of the gravity current. First, it is found that the DNS is in good agreement with the experimental data for the evolution of the front location and velocity field as well as for the stirring and mixing inside the gravity current. Secondly, the LES performed with less than 0.4% of the total number of mesh nodes compared to the DNS, can reproduce the main features of the gravity currents, with the SVV model yielding slightly more accurate results. It is also found that the dynamic Smagorinsky model performs better than its static version. For the present study, the static and dynamic Smagorinsky models are 1.8 and 2.5 times more expensive than the SVV model, because the latter does not require the calculation of explicit SGS terms in the Navier-Stokes equations nor spatial filtering operations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104902
Number of pages18
JournalComputers and Fluids
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-79543


  • Direct numerical simulation
  • Gravity current
  • High-order finite-difference schemes
  • Large-eddy simulation
  • Lock-exchange
  • Spectral vanishing viscosity


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