Convectively induced shear instability in large amplitude internal solitary waves

Magda Carr, D Fructus, J Grue, A Jensen, P A Davies

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Laboratory study has been carried out to investigate the instability of an internal solitary wave of depression in a shallow stratified fluid system. The experimental campaign has been supported by theoretical computations and has focused on a two layered stratification consisting of a homogeneous dense layer below a linearly stratified top layer. The initial background stratification has been varied and it is found that the onset and intensity of breaking are affected dramatically by changes in the background stratification. Manifestations of a combination of shear and convective instability are seen on the leading face of the wave. It is shown that there is an interplay between the two instability types and convective instability induces shear by enhancing isopycnal compression. Variation in the upper boundary condition is also found to have an effect on stability. In particular, the implications for convective instability are shown to be profound and a dramatic increase in wave amplitude is seen for a fixed (as opposed to free) upper boundary condition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number126601
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number12
Early online date5 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Convection
  • Flow instability
  • Shear flow
  • Solitons
  • Stratified flow


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