Equilibria and stability of four point vortices on a sphere

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This paper discusses the problem of finding the equilibrium positions of four point vortices, of generally unequal circulations, on the surface of asphere. A random search method is developed which utilises a modification of the linearised equations to converge on distinct equilibria. Many equilibria (47 and possibly more) may exist for prescribed circulations and angular impulse. A linear stability analysis indicates that they are generally unstable,though stable equilibria do exist. Overall, there is a surprising diversity of equilibria, including those which rotate about an axis opposite to the angular impulse vector.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200344
Number of pages26
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A - Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences
Issue number2241
Early online date30 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • Vortex dynamics
  • Surfaces
  • Point vortices


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