An immersed boundary method for direct and large eddy simulation of stratified flows in complex geometry

Narsimha R. Rapaka, Sutanu Sarkar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A sharp-interface Immersed Boundary Method (IBM) is developed to simulate density-stratified turbulent flows in complex geometry using a Cartesian grid. The basic numerical scheme corresponds to a central second-order finite difference method, third-order Runge–Kutta integration in time for the advective terms and an alternating direction implicit (ADI) scheme for the viscous and diffusive terms. The solver developed here allows for both direct numerical simulation (DNS) and large eddy simulation (LES) approaches. Methods to enhance the mass conservation and numerical stability of the solver to simulate high Reynolds number flows are discussed. Convergence with second-order accuracy is demonstrated in flow past a cylinder. The solver is validated against past laboratory and numerical results in flow past a sphere, and in channel flow with and without stratification. Since topographically generated internal waves are believed to result in a substantial fraction of turbulent mixing in the ocean, we are motivated to examine oscillating tidal flow over a triangular obstacle to assess the ability of this computational model to represent nonlinear internal waves and turbulence. Results in laboratory-scale (order of few meters) simulations show that the wave energy flux, mean flow properties and turbulent kinetic energy agree well with our previous results obtained using a body-fitted grid (BFG). The deviation of IBM results from BFG results is found to increase with increasing nonlinearity in the wave field that is associated with either increasing steepness of the topography relative to the internal wave propagation angle or with the amplitude of the oscillatory forcing. LES is performed on a large scale ridge, of the order of few kilometers in length, that has the same geometrical shape and same non-dimensional values for the governing flow and environmental parameters as the laboratory-scale topography, but significantly larger Reynolds number. A non-linear drag law is utilized in the large-scale application to parameterize turbulent losses due to bottom friction at high Reynolds number. The large scale problem exhibits qualitatively similar behavior to the laboratory scale problem with some differences: slightly larger intensification of the boundary flow and somewhat higher non-dimensional values for the energy fluxed away by the internal wave field. The phasing of wave breaking and turbulence exhibits little difference between small-scale and large-scale obstacles as long as the important non-dimensional parameters are kept the same. We conclude that IBM is a viable approach to the simulation of internal waves and turbulence in high Reynolds number stratified flows over topography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-534
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge support provided by NSF grant OCE-1459774 , program manager Eric Itsweire. We are also pleased to acknowledge Vincenzo Armenio and Frederico Roman who provided a IBM preprocessor code that was modified and integrated into the solver developed here.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • DNS
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Internal gravity waves
  • LES
  • Oceanic flows
  • Stratified flows
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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