Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Effect of a stabilizing gradient of solute on thermal convection

George  Veronis a1
a1 Geology and Geophysics Department, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

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A stabilizing gradient of solute inhibits the onset of convection in a fluid which is subjected to an adverse temperature gradient. Furthermore, the onset of instability may occur as an oscillatory motion because of the stabilizing effect of the solute. These results are obtained from linear stability theory which is reviewed briefly in the following paper before finite-amplitude results for two-dimensional flows are considered. It is found that a finite-amplitude instability may occur first for fluids with a Prandtl number somewhat smaller than unity. When the Prandtl number is equal to unity or greater, instability first sets in as an oscillatory motion which subsequently becomes unstable to disturbances which lead to steady, convecting cellular motions with larger heat flux. A solute Rayleigh number, Rs, is defined with the stabilizing solute gradient replacing the destabilizing temperature gradient in the thermal Rayleigh number. When Rs is large compared with the critical Rayleigh number of ordinary Bénard convection, the value of the Rayleigh number at which instability to finite-amplitude steady modes can set in approaches the value of Rs. Hence, asymptotically this type of instability is established when the fluid is marginally stratified. Also, as Rs [rightward arrow] [infty infinity] an effective diffusion coefficient, Kρ, is defined as the ratio of the vertical density flux to the density gradient evaluated at the boundary and it is found that κρ = [surd radical](κκs) where κ, κs are the diffusion coefficients for temperature and solute respectively. A study is made of the oscillatory behaviour of the fluid when the oscillations have finite amplitudes; the periods of the oscillations are found to increase with amplitude. The horizontally averaged density gradients change sign with height in the oscillating flows. Stably stratified fluid exists near the boundaries and unstably stratified fluid occupies the mid-regions for most of the oscillatory cycle. Thus the step-like behaviour of the density field which has been observed experimentally for time-dependent flows is encountered here numerically.

(Published Online March 28 2006)
(Received March 1 1968)