Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
31 Mar 1995
31 Mar 1995

The evolution of a thermocline effected by a turbulent stream

O. A. Druzhinin, V. I. Kazakov, P. A. Matusov, and L. A. Ostrovsky

Abstract. The process of thermocline evolution under the action of turbulent stream in the upper layer is investigated in laboratory experiment in thermally stratified tank, the initial temperature profile with pronounced thermocline being similar to that observed in tropic seas. The mean velocity and turbulent energy spatial distributions have been shaped to model the hydrological conditions in strong oceanic currents or wind-induced drag currents.
The experiment demonstrates the gradual deepening and transformation of thermocline in a case where no global instability took place (i.e., with Richardson numbers always exceeding 0.3-0.4). The process of thermocline evolution resulted also in recurring "bursts" of microstructure.
A numerical experiment based on equations of semi-empirical theory of turbulence shows quantitative agreement with experimental data. Moreover, simple analytical solutions and numerical results show that a layer with marginal stability is formed with Richardson numbers being very close to the stability threshold, so that quite small disturbances in thermocline can result in appearance of internal waves and bursts of turbulence.