Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Collective instability of salt fingers

Melvin E.  Stern a1
a1 Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

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We first consider a steady laminar model of salt fingers and show that the latter become unstable with respect to internal gravity waves when the finger Reynolds number exceeds a critical value. The criterion is then used in speculations about the statistically steady state in a fully developed similarity model where horizontally averaged temperature and salinity gradients are constant at all depths. Dimensional reasoning is used to obtain the asymptotic dependence of the turbulent flux on the molecular salt diffusivity. From this and other relationships order-of-magnitude estimates are obtained and compared with laboratory experiments and ocean observations.

(Published Online March 28 2006)
(Received April 22 1968)
(Revised August 9 1968)