Double-Diffusive Recipes. Part II: Layer-Merging Events
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This study explores the dynamics of thermohaline staircases: well-defined stepped structures in temperature and salinity profiles, commonly observed in regions of active double diffusion. The evolution of staircases in time is frequently characterized by spontaneous layer-merging events. These phenomena, the authors argue, are essential in regulating the equilibrium layer thickness in fully developed staircases. The pattern and mechanics of merging events are explained using a combination of analytical considerations, direct numerical simulations, and data analysis. The theoretical merger model is based on the stability analysis for a series of identical steps and pertains to both forms of double diffusion: diffusive convection and salt fingering. The conceptual significance of the proposed model lies in its ability to describe merging events without assuming from the outset specific power laws for the vertical transport of heat and salt—the approach adopted by earlier merging models. The analysis of direct numerical simulations indicates that merging models based on the four-thirds flux laws offer adequate qualitative description of the evolutionary patterns but are less accurate than models that do not rely on such laws. Specific examples considered in this paper include the evolution of layers in the diffusive staircase in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-13-0156.1
RightsThis 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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