Skip to main content
padlock icon - secure page this page is secure

Free Content Nonlinear double-diffusive intrusions at the equator

Download Article:
Previous, linear analysis has suggested that observations of interleaving, quasi-horizontal layers in the equatorial oceans may be explained by double-diffusive or inertial instability. Here we describe an idealized, two-dimensional, numerical investigation of the nonlinear development of these instabilities, focusing almost exclusively on the double-diffusive case. We consider the mechanisms for equilibration and maintenance of the interleaving intrusions and perform a thorough sensitivity analysis. Nonlinearity arising from changes in diffusive regime is found to be more important than advective nonlinearity in promoting global equilibration. When variations in effective flux ratio are weak, local constraints prevent equilibration until large amplitudes are reached. When variations in flux ratio with density ratio are allowed, small-scale staircase and mesoscale intrusive instabilities coexist, leading to staircase-like intrusions with sharp, steppy interfaces. Solutions are found to equilibrate at between 3 and 13 times the amplitude where mean salinity gradients overturn. Cross-equatorial diffusivities between 20 and 400 m2 s-1 are found in realistic cases with intrusion lengths of up to 40 km. A modified estimate of the effective cross-equatorial diffusivity based on a balance of lateral advection and vertical diffusion tends to overestimate the sensitivity to the mean horizontal and vertical gradients of salinity and underestimates the sensitivity to the vertical diffusivity but does give values within an order of magnitude of those derived from numerical experiments.

For comparison, we give a single example of inertially driven interleaving layers which reach 190 km in length giving cross-equatorial heat fluxes four times larger than realistic doublediffusively driven cases. Although the inertial case is not considered in detail, we speculate that observed interleaving is more likely to be created by inertial than double-diffusive instability.

20 References.

No Supplementary Data.
No Article Media
No Metrics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • 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.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Purchase The Sea
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more