Double-diffusive transport in multicomponent vertical convection

Christopher J. Howland*, Roberto Verzicco, Detlef Lohse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Motivated by the ablation of vertical ice faces in salt water, we use three-dimensional direct numerical simulations to investigate the heat and salt fluxes in two-scalar vertical convection. For parameters relevant to ice-ocean interfaces in the convection-dominated regime, we observe that the salinity field drives the convection and that heat is essentially transported as a passive scalar. By varying the diffusivity ratio of heat and salt (i.e., the Lewis number Le), we identify how the different molecular diffusivities affect the scalar fluxes through the system. Away from the walls, we find that the heat transport is determined by a turbulent Prandtl number of Prt≈1 and that double-diffusive effects are practically negligible. However, the difference in molecular diffusivities plays an important role close to the boundaries. In the (unrealistic) case where salt diffused faster than heat, the ratio of salt-to-heat fluxes would scale as Le1/3, consistent with classical nested scalar boundary layers. However, in the realistic case of faster heat diffusion (relative to salt), we observe a transition towards a Le1/2 scaling of the ratio of the fluxes. This coincides with the thermal boundary layer width growing beyond the thickness of the viscous boundary layer. We find that this transition is not determined by a critical Lewis number, but rather by a critical Prandtl number Pr≈10, slightly below that for cold seawater where Pr=14. We compare our results to similar studies of sheared and double-diffusive flow under ice shelves, and discuss the implications for fluxes in large-scale ice-ocean models. By coupling our results to ice-ocean interface thermodynamics, we describe how the flux ratio impacts the interfacial salinity, and hence the strength of solutal convection and the ablation rate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number013501
JournalPhysical review fluids
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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