Formation of small-scale vortices in the core of a large merged vortex

Erwan Oulhen*, Jean Noel Reinaud, Xavier Carton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The merger of two surface quasi-geostrophic vortices is examined in detail. As the two vortices collapse towards each other in the merging process, they trap their external fronts between them; these fronts are inserted into the final merged vortex, where they form a central, nearly parallel, sheared velocity strip, sensitive to barotropic instability. As a result, this strip breaks up into an alley of small vortices. Subsequently, these small vortices may undergo merger and grow in size in the core of the large merged vortex. The number of small trapped vortices decreases correspondingly. Finally, a single or two small vortices remain. These processes are analysed using a numerical model of the surface quasi-geostrophic equations. The sensitivity of this process to the initial vortex characteristics is explored. A parallel is drawn between this problem and the instability of a rectilinear strip of temperature with a central gap. The application of this problem to the Ocean is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-432
JournalGeophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
Issue number5-6
Early online date25 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Surface quasi-geostrophy
  • Vortex merger
  • Barotropic instability
  • Small vortices
  • Core tapping


Dive into the research topics of 'Formation of small-scale vortices in the core of a large merged vortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this