On the stability of continuously stratified quasi-geostrophic hetons

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9 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we examine the stability of quasi-geostrophic hetons in a stably, continuously stratified fluid. To this purpose we first determinate numerically equilibrium states. Equilibrium hetons consist of two vortices of equal and opposite strength lying at different depths that are steadily translating without deforming. The situation is studied through a parameter space comprising the vertical offset between the vortices, their horizontal separation distance and their aspect ratio. The study first shows that the equilibrium vortices are not only strongly deformed in the vertical but that their instability modes are also varying within the height of the structures. The main purpose of the present contribution is to study families of equilibria which stem from the case of two vertically aligned cylindrical vortices. It is however shown that other branches of solutions exist with different properties. The paper concludes that hetons may be sensitive to baroclinic instabilities provided the separation distance between the poles of the hetons is moderate both in the horizontal and in the vertical directions. The hetons become stable and efficient ways to transport properties as fas as the poles are distant from one another. The critical separation distance in a non-trivial function of the radius-to-height aspect ratio of the poles.
Original languageEnglish
Article number035510
Number of pages23
JournalFluid Dynamics Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015


  • Vortex interactions
  • Hetons
  • Stability


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