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Thermohaline Staircases and Shear: Formation and Disruption Mechanisms

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ADIW03 - Climate Applications of Layering

Though thermohaline staircases exist in a large region of the Arctic, the interactions of such staircases with shear and turbulence is a topic that has only seen substantial exploration in the last few years. Our research has focused on the interactions between these staircases with shear, such as that generated by internal waves or intrusions. This work is done using a spectral numerical code with a dynamic mesh that is perfectly suited for studying small-scale turbulent processes in regions of large-scale shear. We have performed a series of two- and three-dimensional simulations with and without shear and demonstrate the capacity of shear to both form and disrupt Arctic staircases. Both isotropic shear and unidirectional oscillating shear are considered. In cases of strong shear, we show that these staircases can be disrupted, though they are remarkably resilient if the shear is intermittent. In cases of weak shear (Richardson numbers greater than 2), the spontaneous development of layers is observed.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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