The velocity perturbations and Reynolds stresses associated with finite-amplitude Holmboe instabilities are investigated using linear stability analysis, numerical simulations, and laboratory experiments. The rightward and leftward propagating Holmboe instabilities are separated, allowing for a direct comparison of the perturbation fields between the numerical simulations and the linear stability analysis. The decomposition and superposition of the perturbation fields provide insights into the structure and origin of Reynolds stresses in Holmboe instabilities. Shear instabilities in stratified flows introduce a directional preference (anisotropy) in velocity perturbation fields, thereby generating Reynolds stresses. Here, we investigate this anisotropy by comparing pairs of horizontal and vertical velocity perturbations (u,w), obtained from the simulations and the laboratory experiment, with predictions from linear stability analysis. For an individual Holmboe mode, both the simulations and linear theory yield elliptical (u,w)-pairs that are oriented toward the second and fourth quadrants (uw<0), corresponding to the tilted elliptical trajectories of particle movement. Combining the leftward and rightward Holmboe modes yields (u,w) ellipses whose orientation and aspect ratio are phase-dependent. When averaged over a full cycle, the joint probability density functions of (u,w) in the linear theory and single wavelength simulations exhibit “steering wheel” structures. This steering wheel is smeared out in multiple wavelength simulations and the laboratory experiment due to varying wavelengths, resulting in an elliptical cloud. All of the approaches adopted in the present study yield Reynolds stresses that are comparable to those reported in previous laboratory and field investigations.

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