Interaction between a surface quasi-geostrophic buoyancy filament and an internal vortex

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This paper focuses on the nonlinear interaction between a surface quasi-geostrophic buoyancy filament and an internal vortex. We first revisit the stability of an isolated buoyancy filament. The buoyancy profile considered is continuous and leads to a continuous velocity field, albeit one with infinite shear just outside its edge. The stability properties of an isolated filament help to interpret the unsteady interaction with a sub-surface (internal) vortex studied next. We find that, in all cases, the filament breaks into billows, analogous in form to those occurring in Kelvin-Helmholtz shear instability. For intense buoyancy filaments, the vortex itself may undergo strong deformations, including being split into several pieces. Generally, the nonlinear interaction causes both the filament and the vortex to lose their respective ‘self’-energies to the energy of interaction. The flow evolution depends sensitively on whether the vertical vorticity of the filament and the vortex have the same or opposite signs — termed “cooperative” and “adverse” shear respectively. In cooperative shear, the filament rolls up into a coherent surface eddy above a vortex initially placed below it, whereas in adverse shear, buoyancy is expelled above the vortex. Although sufficiently great shear induced by the buoyancy filament may split the vortex in both cases, adverse shear is significantly more destructive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-490
JournalGeophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
Issue number6
Early online date23 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2016


  • Vortex dynamics
  • Semi-quasigeostrophy
  • Quasigeostrophy


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