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Shear and Convective Turbulence in a Model of Thermohaline Intrusions

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  • 1 College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
  • | 2 Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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Abstract

Thermohaline interleaving is an important mechanism for laterally fluxing salt, heat, and nutrients between water masses. Interleaving is driven by a release of potential energy resulting from the differing diffusivities of heat and salt in seawater. The flows are composed of stacked intrusions that flux more and less buoyant water in opposite directions. In this paper, the role of shear instability caused by this juxtaposed motion is investigated. The model described in Walsh and Ruddick is modified to include both the effects of shear-induced turbulence and an improved convective mixing parameterization. Shear and convective mixing play a similar and significant role in interleaving dynamics. In the absence of either instability, cross-front fluxes are increased by approximately 30%. While in situ observations of horizontal diffusivity resulting from interleaving are not yet precise enough to calibrate the parameterizations independently, parameter values based on independent laboratory and numerical studies lead to diffusivity predictions that are within the error of the observations.

Corresponding author address: William D. Smyth, 104 COAS Admin Bldg., Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331. Email: smyth@coas.oregonstate.edu

Abstract

Thermohaline interleaving is an important mechanism for laterally fluxing salt, heat, and nutrients between water masses. Interleaving is driven by a release of potential energy resulting from the differing diffusivities of heat and salt in seawater. The flows are composed of stacked intrusions that flux more and less buoyant water in opposite directions. In this paper, the role of shear instability caused by this juxtaposed motion is investigated. The model described in Walsh and Ruddick is modified to include both the effects of shear-induced turbulence and an improved convective mixing parameterization. Shear and convective mixing play a similar and significant role in interleaving dynamics. In the absence of either instability, cross-front fluxes are increased by approximately 30%. While in situ observations of horizontal diffusivity resulting from interleaving are not yet precise enough to calibrate the parameterizations independently, parameter values based on independent laboratory and numerical studies lead to diffusivity predictions that are within the error of the observations.

Corresponding author address: William D. Smyth, 104 COAS Admin Bldg., Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331. Email: smyth@coas.oregonstate.edu

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