High order methods are of great interest in the study of turbulent flows in complex geometries by means of direct simulation. With this goal in mind, the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations are discretized in space by a compact fourth order finite difference method on a staggered grid. The equations are integrated in time by a second order semi-implicit method. Stable boundary conditions are implemented and the grid is allowed to be curvilinear in two space dimensions. In every time step, a system of linear equations is solved for the velocity and the pressure by an outer and an inner iteration with preconditioning. The convergence properties of the iterative method are analyzed. The order of accuracy of the method is demonstrated in numerical experiments. The method is used to compute the flow in a channel, the driven cavity and a constricted channel.
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