Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 March 2010
Evolution of layers in an unbounded diffusively stratified two-component fluid and its dynamics are studied by means of a direct numerical simulation (DNS) and an analytical model. The numerical simulation shows that the layers grow by repeating mergings with the neighbouring layers. By analysing the results of the numerical simulation, the mechanism of the merging is examined in detail. Two modes of merging are found to exist: one is the layer vanishing mode and the other is the interface vanishing mode. The vanishings of layers and interfaces are caused by turbulent entrainment at the interfaces. Based on the analysis of the numerical model, a one-dimensional asymmetric entrainment model is proposed. In the model, each layer is assumed to interact with its neighbouring layers through simplified convective entrainment laws. The model is applied to two simple configurations of layers and is proved to reproduce the layer evolutions found in the DNS successfully.