Publication:
FORMATION AND DESTRUCTION OF ARCTIC THERMOHALINE STAIRCASES

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Authors
Ainslie, Kristen
Subjects
Thermohaline staircase
shear
double diffusion
Arctic Ocean
vertical shear
heat transfer
internal waves
convection
Advisors
Radko, Timour
Date of Issue
2021-03
Date
Publisher
Monterey, CA; Naval Postgraduate School
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Abstract
This study explores the dynamics of diffusive convection, which is realized in regions where cool and fresh water-masses rest on top of those that are warm and salty. This type of convection is often observed in the Arctic Ocean and is characterized by the development of fine-scale steps in vertical salinity and temperature profiles known as thermohaline staircases. The Arctic staircases control the rate of upward heat transfer from waters of Atlantic origin, thereby influencing the melting of sea-ice and the polar climate in general. This thesis aims to utilize numerical modeling to define conditions that are favorable or unfavorable for creating thermohaline staircases and provide an explanation as to why they are not constantly prevalent throughout the Arctic. In particular, the presented high-resolution simulations explore the role of vertical shear associated with internal waves that are ubiquitous in the World Ocean. While previous investigations suggested that that the vertical shear could adversely affect staircases, this effect has not been quantified and physical mechanisms at play are still poorly understood. The present study addresses these unresolved problems in the theory of double-diffusive convection, concurrently shedding light on the mechanics of heat transfer in high-latitude oceans.
Type
Thesis
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Department
Oceanography (OC)
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Distribution Statement
Approved for public release. distribution is unlimited
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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