This study proposes a modification to the temperature-composition pdf approach. Instead of equilibrium mass fractions, values of a time-varying homogeneous reacting system are used in the simplification of the joint-pdf into the multiplication of marginal pdfs. The approach takes into consideration of local time scales which are defined on the basis of energy balance with two competing transport mechanisms on the flame surface; these are the turbulent convective transport perpendicular to the flame and the diffusive flux tangent to the flame. The flame surface and flux directions are described by the gradient of mixture fraction and unitary tangent vector which is defined by the scalars. The new approach in combination with the ILDM chemistry is used in the numerical simulation of a transitional bluff-body flame. Despite the use of simple pdf models, the present formulation appears to be very successful in predicting the flow field, the temperature and progress variables and, except for the mixture fraction, show relatively good agreement with the experimental data. The profiles of the time scale show that the flame develops in relation to the distributions of progress variables in the T - xi parameter space. Hence, the approach offers the possibility of local flame extinction. It also gives a rational explanation of the bimodal distributions of the reactive scalar pdfs in a turbulent flow with fluctuations of a wide spectrum of scales. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.