Finescale Instabilities of the Double-Diffusive Shear Flow
Stern, Melvin E.
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This study examines dynamics of finescale instabilities in thermohaline–shear flows. It is shown that the presence of the background diapycnal temperature and salinity fluxes due to double diffusion has a destabilizing effect on the basic current. Using linear stability analysis based on the Floquet theory for the sinusoidal basic velocity profile, the authors demonstrate that the well-known Richardson number criterion (Ri , 1/ 4) cannot be directly applied to doubly diffusive fluids. Rigorous instabilities are predicted to occur for Richardson numbers as high as—or even exceeding—unity. The inferences from the linear theory are supported by the fully nonlinear numerical simulations. Since the Richardson number in the main thermocline rarely drops below 1/ 4, whereas the observations of turbulent patches are common, the authors hypothesize that some turbulent mixing events can be attributed to the finescale instabilities associated with double diffusive processes.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2010JPO4459.1
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