Development of a large-eddy simulation subgrid model based on artificial neural networks: A case study of turbulent channel flow

Robin Stoffer*, Caspar M. Van Leeuwen, Damian Podareanu, Valeriu Codreanu, Menno A. Veerman, Martin Janssens, Oscar K. Hartogensis, Chiel C. Van Heerwaarden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Atmospheric boundary layers and other wall-bounded flows are often simulated with the large-eddy simulation (LES) technique, which relies on subgrid-scale (SGS) models to parameterize the smallest scales. These SGS models often make strong simplifying assumptions. Also, they tend to interact with the discretization errors introduced by the popular LES approach where a staggered finite-volume grid acts as an implicit filter. We therefore developed an alternative LES SGS model based on artificial neural networks (ANNs) for the computational fluid dynamics MicroHH code (v2.0). We used a turbulent channel flow (with friction Reynolds number ReτCombining double low line590) as a test case. The developed SGS model has been designed to compensate for both the unresolved physics and instantaneous spatial discretization errors introduced by the staggered finite-volume grid. We trained the ANNs based on instantaneous flow fields from a direct numerical simulation (DNS) of the selected channel flow. In general, we found excellent agreement between the ANN-predicted SGS fluxes and the SGS fluxes derived from DNS for flow fields not used during training. In addition, we demonstrate that our ANN SGS model generalizes well towards other coarse horizontal resolutions, especially when these resolutions are located within the range of the training data. This shows that ANNs have potential to construct highly accurate SGS models that compensate for spatial discretization errors. We do highlight and discuss one important challenge still remaining before this potential can be successfully leveraged in actual LES simulations: we observed an artificial buildup of turbulence kinetic energy when we directly incorporated our ANN SGS model into a LES simulation of the selected channel flow, eventually resulting in numeric instability. We hypothesize that error accumulation and aliasing errors are both important contributors to the observed instability. We finally make several suggestions for future research that may alleviate the observed instability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3769-3788
Number of pages20
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2021


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