An upwind differencing scheme for the equations of ideal magnetohydrodynamics

M. Brio, C. C. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

667 Scopus citations


Recently, upwind differencing schemes have become very popular for solving hyperbolic partial differential equations, especially when discontinuities exist in the solutions. Among many upwind schemes successfully applied to the problems in gas dynamics, Roe's method stands out for its relative simplicity and clarity of the underlying physical model. In this paper, an upwind differencing scheme of Roe-type for the MHD equations is constructed. In each computational cell, the problem is first linearized around some averaged state which preserves the flux differences. Then the solution is advanced in time by computing the wave contributions to the flux at the cell interfaces. One crucial task of the linearization procedure is the construction of a Roe matrix. For the special case γ = 2, a Roe matrix in the form of a mean value Jacobian is found, and for the general case, a simple averaging procedure is introduced. All other necessary ingredients of the construction, which include eigenvalues, and a complete set of right eigenvectors of the Roe matrix and decomposition coefficients are presented. As a numerical example, we chose a coplanar MHD Riemann problem. The problem is solved by the newly constructed second-order upwind scheme as well as by the Lax-Friedrichs, the Lax-Wendroff, and the flux-corrected transport schemes. The results demonstrate several advantages of the upwind scheme. In this paper, we also show that the MHD equations are nonconvex. This is a contrast to the general belief that the fast and slow waves are like sound waves in the Euler equations. As a consequence, the wave structure becomes more complicated; for example, compound waves consisting of a shock and attached to it a rarefaction wave of the same family can exist in MHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-422
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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