A new mixed finite element method for the n-dimensional Boussinesq problem with temperature-dependent viscosity

Javier A. Almonacid, Gabriel N. Gatica, Ricardo Oyarzúa, Ricardo Ruiz-Baier

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In this paper we propose a new mixed-primal formulation for heatdriven flows with temperature-dependent viscosity modeled by the stationary Boussinesq equations. We analyze the well-posedness of the governing equations in this mathematical structure, for which we employ the Banach fixedpoint theorem and the generalized theory of saddle-point problems. The motivation is to overcome a drawback in a recent work by the authors where, in the mixed formulation for the momentum equation, the reciprocal of the viscosity is a pre-factor to a tensor product of velocities; making the analysis quite restrictive, as one needs a given continuous injection that holds only in 2D. We show in this work that by adding both the pseudo-stress and the strain rate tensors as new unknowns in the problem, we get more exibility in the analysis, covering also the 3D case. The rest of the formulation is based on eliminating the pressure, incorporating augmented Galerkin-type terms in the mixed form of the momentum equation, and defining the normal heat flux as a suitable Lagrange multiplier in a primal formulation for the energy equation. Additionally, the symmetry of the stress is imposed in an ultra-weak sense, and consequently the vorticity tensor is no longer required as part of the unknowns. A finite element method that follows the same setting is then proposed, where we remark that both pressure and vorticity can be recovered from the principal unknowns via postprocessing formulae. The solvability of the discrete problem is analyzed by means of the Brouwer fixed-point theorem, and we derive error estimates in suitable norms. Numerical examples illustrate the performance of the new schem and its use in the simulation of mantle convection, and they also confirm the theoretical rates of convergence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-245
Number of pages31
JournalNetworks and Heterogeneous Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • A priori error analysis
  • Augmented mixed-primal formulation
  • Boussinesq equations
  • Finite element methods
  • Fixedpoint theory

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