On the late-time behaviour of a bounded, inviscid two-dimensional flow

David Gerard Dritschel, Wanming Qi, J.B. Marston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Using complementary numerical approaches at high resolution, we study the late-time behaviour of an inviscid incompressible two-dimensional flow on the surface of a sphere. Starting from a random initial vorticity field comprised of a small set of intermediate-wavenumber spherical harmonics, we find that, contrary to the predictions of equilibrium statistical mechanics, the flow does not evolve into a large-scale steady state. Instead, significant unsteadiness persists, characterised by a population of persistent small-scale vortices interacting with a large-scale oscillating quadrupolar vorticity field. Moreover, the vorticity develops a stepped, staircase distribution, consisting of nearly homogeneous regions separated by sharp gradients. The persistence of unsteadiness is explained by a simple point-vortex model characterising the interactions between the four main vortices which emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date13 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2015


  • Turbulent mix
  • Vortex dynamics
  • Vortex flows


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