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Free Content Initiation of a doubly diffusive convection in a stable halocline

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A vertically stable density stratification with temperature gradient Tz < 0, salinity gradient Sz < 0, and with density compensating horizontal T/S gradients is unstable to lateral intrusions because the molecular heat diffusivity is much larger than the salt diffusivity. Previous marginal instability theory is extended to the supercritical regime. The fastest growing vertical wavelength (z) is obtained in a model of a T/S front with finite lateral width (L*) and lateral salinity variation (ΔS). The value of z ≈ ΔS/|Sz| varies only slightly with the parameters, and this result is applied to the smallest "step" size observed in the main thermocline of the Weddell Sea. Nonlinear considerations show that the laterally divergent heat/salt flux produced by the instability forces a mean vertical circulation which enhances the compensating lateral T/S gradients, thereby accelerating the intrusive instability, and eventually producing local density ratios sufficient to initiate strong vertical convection. This suggests that weak isopycnal T/S gradients are necessary to initiate the steps which subsequently merge into larger layers.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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