Turbulence in a Sheared, Salt-Fingering-Favorable Environment: Anisotropy and Effective Diffusivities

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  • Direct numerical simulations (DNS) of a shear layer with salt-fingering-favorable stratification have been performed for different Richardson numbers Ri and density ratios R[subscript]p. In the absence of shear (Ri = oo), the primary instability is square planform salt fingering, alternating cells of rising and sinking fluid. In the presence of shear, salt fingering takes the form of salt sheets, planar regions of rising and sinking fluid, aligned parallel to the sheared flow. After the onset of secondary instability, the flow becomes turbulent. The continued influence of the primary instability distorts the late-stage structure and hence biases isotropic estimates of the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate . In contrast, thermal and saline gradients evolve to become more isotropic than velocity gradients at their dissipation scales. Thus, the standard observational methodology of estimating the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate from vertical profiles of microscale gradients and assuming isotropy can underestimate its true value by a factor of 2–3, whereas estimates of thermal and saline dissipation rates using this approach are relatively accurate. Likewise, estimates of G from vertical profiles overestimate the true G by roughly a factor of 2. Salt sheets are ineffective at transporting momentum. Thermal and saline effective diffusivities decrease with decreasing Ri, despite the added energy source provided by background shear. After the transition to turbulence, the thermal to saline flux ratio and the effective Schmidt number remain close to the values predicted by linear theory.
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  • Kimura, Satoshi, William Smyth, Eric Kunze, 2011: Turbulence in a Sheared, Salt-Fingering-Favorable Environment: Anisotropy and Effective Diffusivities. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 41, 1144–1159.
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  • 41
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  • 6
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  • The work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant 0453140.



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