From convection rolls to finger convection in double-diffusive turbulence

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Double-diffusive convection (DDC), which is the buoyancy-driven flow with fluid density depending on two scalar components, is ubiquitous in many natural and engineering environments. Of great interests are scalars’ transfer rate and flow structures. Here we systematically investigate DDC flow between two horizontal plates, driven by an unstable salinity gradient and stabilized by a temperature gradient. Counterintuitively, when increasing the stabilizing temperature gradient, the salinity flux first increases, even though the velocity monotonically decreases, before it finally breaks down to the purely diffusive value. The enhanced salinity transport is traced back to a transition in the overall flow pattern, namely from large-scale convection rolls to well-organized vertically oriented salt fingers. We also show and explain that the unifying theory of thermal convection originally developed by Grossmann and Lohse for Rayleigh–Bénard convection can be directly applied to DDC flow for a wide range of control parameters (Lewis number and density ratio), including those which cover the common values relevant for ocean flows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-73
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • IR-99841
  • METIS-313789


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