Free thermal convection and mixed convection are considered as potential mechanisms for mass and heat transport in sedimentary basins. Mixed convection occurs when horizontal flows (forced convection) are superimposed on thermally driven flows. In cross section, mixed convection is characterized by convection cells that migrate laterally in the direction of forced convective flow. Two-dimensional finite-element simulations of variable-density groundwater flow and heat transport in a horizontal porous layer were performed to determine critical mean Rayleigh numbers for the onset of free convection, using both isothermal and semi-conductive boundaries. Additional simulations imposed a varying lateral fluid flux on the free-convection pattern. Results from these experiments indicate that forced convection becomes dominant, completely eliminating buoyancy-driven circulation, when the total forced-convection fluid flux exceeds the total flux possible due to free convection. Calculations of the thermal rock alteration index (RAI=q????T) delineate the patterns of potential diagenesis produced by fluid movement through temperature gradients. Free convection produces a distinct pattern of alternating positive and negative RAIs, whereas mixed convection produces a simpler layering of positive and negative values and in general less diagenetic alteration. ?? Springer-Verlag.
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The potential for free and mixed convection in sedimentary basins