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The Effect of Rotation on Double Diffusive Convection: Perspectives from Linear Stability Analysis

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  • 1 a Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • | 2 b Institute of Coastal Ocean Dynamics, Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Geesthacht, Germany
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Abstract

Diffusive convection can occur when two constituents of a stratified fluid have opposing effects on its stratification and different molecular diffusivities. This form of convection arises for the particular temperature and salinity stratification in the Arctic Ocean and is relevant to heat fluxes. Previous studies have suggested that planetary rotation may influence diffusive–convective heat fluxes, although the precise physical mechanisms and regime of rotational influence are not well understood. A linear stability analysis of a temperature and salinity interface bounded by two mixed layers is performed here to understand the stability properties of a diffusive–convective system, and in particular the transition from nonrotating to rotationally controlled heat transfer. Rotation is shown to stabilize diffusive convection by increasing the critical Rayleigh number to initiate instability. In the rotationally controlled regime, a −4/3 power law is found between the critical Rayleigh number and the Ekman number, similar to the scaling for rotating thermal convection. The transition from nonrotating to rotationally controlled convection, and associated drop in heat fluxes, is predicted to occur when the thermal interfacial thickness exceeds about 4 times the Ekman layer thickness. A vorticity budget analysis indicates how baroclinic vorticity production is counteracted by the tilting of planetary vorticity by vertical shear, which accounts for the stabilization effect of rotation. Finally, direct numerical simulations yield generally good agreement with the linear stability analysis. This study, therefore, provides a theoretical framework for classifying regimes of rotationally controlled diffusive–convective heat fluxes, such as may arise in some regions of the Arctic Ocean.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yu Liang, yu.liang@yale.edu

Abstract

Diffusive convection can occur when two constituents of a stratified fluid have opposing effects on its stratification and different molecular diffusivities. This form of convection arises for the particular temperature and salinity stratification in the Arctic Ocean and is relevant to heat fluxes. Previous studies have suggested that planetary rotation may influence diffusive–convective heat fluxes, although the precise physical mechanisms and regime of rotational influence are not well understood. A linear stability analysis of a temperature and salinity interface bounded by two mixed layers is performed here to understand the stability properties of a diffusive–convective system, and in particular the transition from nonrotating to rotationally controlled heat transfer. Rotation is shown to stabilize diffusive convection by increasing the critical Rayleigh number to initiate instability. In the rotationally controlled regime, a −4/3 power law is found between the critical Rayleigh number and the Ekman number, similar to the scaling for rotating thermal convection. The transition from nonrotating to rotationally controlled convection, and associated drop in heat fluxes, is predicted to occur when the thermal interfacial thickness exceeds about 4 times the Ekman layer thickness. A vorticity budget analysis indicates how baroclinic vorticity production is counteracted by the tilting of planetary vorticity by vertical shear, which accounts for the stabilization effect of rotation. Finally, direct numerical simulations yield generally good agreement with the linear stability analysis. This study, therefore, provides a theoretical framework for classifying regimes of rotationally controlled diffusive–convective heat fluxes, such as may arise in some regions of the Arctic Ocean.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yu Liang, yu.liang@yale.edu
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