Interaction between a quasi-geostrophic buoyancy filament and a heton

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We investigate the interaction between a heton and a current generated by a filament of buoyancy anomaly at the surface. Hetons are baroclinic dipoles consisting of a pair of vortices of opposite sign lying at different depths. Such structures have a self-induced motion whenever the pair of vortices are offset horizontally. A surface buoyancy filament generates a shear flow since the density perturbation modifies locally the pressure field. The vertical shear induced by the filament offsets the vortices of the heton if vertically aligned initially. Moreover, if the vortex nearer the surface is in adverse horizontal shear with the buoyancy filament the heton tends to move towards the filament. Conversely, if the upper vortex is in cooperative horizontal shear with the buoyancy filament, the heton moves away from it. The filament is also naturally unstable and eventually breaks into a series of billows as it is perturbed by the heton. Moderate to large intensity surface buoyancy distributions separate the vortices of the heton, limiting its advection as a baroclinic dipole. Instead, the vortices of the heton start to interact strongly with surface billows. Additionally, the vortices of the heton can be partially destroyed by the filament if the shear it induces is sufficiently large.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Early online date3 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Vortex dynamics
  • Surface bouyancy anomaly
  • Quasi-geostrophy


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