The instability of stratified flows at large Richardson numbers

Andrew J. Majda, Michael Shefter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In contrast to conventional expectations based on the stability of steady shear flows, elementary time-periodic stratified flows that are unstable at arbitrarily large Richardson numbers are presented here. The fundamental instability is a parametric one with twice the period of the basic state. This instability spontaneously generates local shears on buoyancy time scales near a specific angle of inclination that saturates into a localized regime of strong mixing with density overturning. We speculate that such instabilities may contribute significantly to the step-like microstructure often observed in buoyancy measurements in the ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7850-7853
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 7 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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