On the fine structure of the thermal bar front

N. Demchenko, I. Chubarenko, G.J.F. Heijst, van

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The thermal bar—a hydrodynamic phenomenon, arising in natural basins due to successive changes of the water temperature across the temperature of maximum density (Tm, which is close to 4°C)—has been studied in laboratory experiments and by numerical simulations. The experiments were performed in a rectangular tank with an inclined bottom, filled with water with initial temperature T0 <Tm and then heated at the surface. During the heating a basin-wide circulation develops, consisting of down-slope cascades in regions where T <Tm, a subsurface off-shore jet in the region where T > Tm, and a compensating flow at intermediate depths towards the shallow part of the tank, supplying both off-shore flows with waters from deeper regions. Analysis of the water temperature and density fields as well as the currents has revealed that the location of the convergence zone of the surface current (when formed) does not coincide with that of the Tm-isotherm. The thermal bar front is typically understood as a convergence zone near the 4°C-isotherm, formed due to the effect of cabbeling. Our experiments demonstrate, however, that the front is associated with the leading edge of the subsurface current. The increasing distance between the 4°C-isotherm and the subsurface jet has been recorded in the laboratory experiments. Numerical simulation results corroborate the laboratory experiments. A scaling analysis predicts the speed of propagation of this frontal zone to be U ~ [g × ¿¿/¿ × H]1/2, where H is the depth (increasing with time) of the upper thermo-active layer, ¿0 a reference density, and ¿¿ is the characteristic horizontal density difference across the front. A combined analysis of laboratory, field and numerical data has corroborated this law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-183
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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