Large eddy simulation of stratified mixing in a three-dimensional lock-exchange system

Tamay M. Özgökmen, Traian Iliescu, Paul F. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate and computationally-efficient modeling of stratified mixing processes are of paramount importance in both coastal and large-scale ocean circulation. In this study, our main objective is to investigate the feasibility and accuracy of large eddy simulation (LES) as a possible tool to study small-scale oceanic processes. To this end, LES is evaluated in a 3D lock-exchange problem, which contains shear-driven mixing, internal waves, interactions with boundaries and convective motions, while having a simple domain, initial and boundary conditions, and forcing. Two general classes of LES models are tested, namely eddy viscosity (EV) models based on constant-coefficient and dynamic Smagorinsky models, and an approximate deconvolution (AD) model. By noting that the dynamic Smagorinsky and AD models have different strengths in that the former is good in providing appropriate dissipation while the latter in preserving the detail of coherent structures on coarse resolution meshes, a hybrid approach combining EV and AD models is also evaluated. A direct numerical simulation (DNS) is performed as the benchmark solution, and all LES models are tested on three coarse meshes. The main measure of mixing is taken as the temporal evolution of background potential energy. It is found that constant-coefficient Smagorinsky models can only provide a marginal improvement over under-resolved simulations, while both dynamic Smagorinsky and AD models lead to significant improvements in mixing accuracy. The primary accomplishment of this study is that it is shown that the hybrid approach attains the best agreement with the mixing curve from DNS, while being computationally approximately a thousand times faster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-155
Number of pages22
JournalOcean Modelling
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Oceanography
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Atmospheric Science


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