The intradiurnal heating and cooling cycle of the mixed layer of a tropical ocean is investigated through the use of a ‘pseudo-two-dimensional’ numerical model. Particular emphasis is given to two-component diffusion resulting from dynamic instabilities in the water column. The conservation equations for salt and heat include the effects of solar heating, horizontal advection and turbulent fluxes at the sea surface, while wind mixing enters through the use of depth-dependent eddy diffusion coefficients resulting from the wave-orbital shear model of Kitaigorodskiy (1961). All inputs are treated as functions of time of day, or calculated via the bulk aerodynamic method.
The entrainment fluxes of salt and heat due to the mechanical stirring of the wind and the fluxes due to molecular diffusion are treated as separate, their respective contributions being added to form the diffusion coefficients used in an alternating-direction explicit scheme to integrate the heat and salt equations. Near the surface, in the absence of strong solar heating (i.e. during the night), these two fluxes alone are insufficient to remove the near-surface static instabilities; thus the presence of some additional process is suggested. A dynamic stability analysis is carried out, based on the temperature and salinity gradients. The resulting Rayleigh numbers indicate the possibility of double-diffusive convection, whereby the vertical transfers of salt and heat may proceed at rates far greater than can be accounted for by molecular diffusion alone. Therefore, the molecular diffusions in the model are increased by a factor roughly proportional to the one-third power of the ratio of the local effective Rayleigh number to a critical Rayleigh number. The modified molecular diffusivities are then added to the eddy diffusion coefficients due to the wind, to form the total diffusion coefficients used in the numerical integrations.
Comparisons are made between the model-generated profiles of temperature and the profiles observed in the ocean. The comparisons show reasonable agreement in the diurnal cycle of the heat wave at 1 m vertical resolution (except for the model-generated surface layer being too deep during the late afternoon hours). (Previous models typically predict only the temperature and thickness of a homogeneous layer.) The results obtained with the model are instructive in estimating the relative importance of the various mixing processes in the upper ocean.