To understand convection in terrestrial planets, numerical simulations are used. Convection can be described using the conservation equations for energy, momentum and mass, as well as the equations of state, and initial and boundary conditions. By coupling conservation equations for chemical species to that system, the interplay between convection and differentiation can be investigated. The solutions of these models depend on many parameters, which are not well known. A successful model should reproduce the observations e.g. provided by space missions. We distinguish among several types of models. In parameterized models the efficiency of heat transport is described by a scaling law. In this case, only a global energy budget is considered, which is computationally inexpensive. It allows the investigation of a wide parameter space and is useful for a global overview.

2D-Simulation of convection in a planet's mantle (1,2 MB) Source: Dr. Klaus Gottschaldt

If one is interested in further details, e.g. convection structure and temperature fields, the full system of equations must be solved. Usually this is done in 2-d or 3-d, cartesian or spherical geometry. Two-dimensional cartesian models generally consume less resources than others; 3-d spherical models are more realistic but need much more computing time. The choice of the models depends on the specific problem considered. The computations of our group are done on PCs, clusters or on one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe.