The interaction between two oppositely travelling, horizontally offset, antisymmetric quasi-geostrophic hetons

Jean Noel Reinaud, Xavier Carton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate numerically the nonlinear interactions between hetons. Hetons are baroclinic structures consisting of two vortices of opposite sign lying at
different depths. Hetons are long-lived. They most often translate (they can
sometimes rotate) and therefore they can noticeably contribute to the transport of scalar properties in the oceans. Heton interactions can interrupt this translation and thus this transport, by inducing a reconfiguration of interacting hetons into more complex baroclinic multipoles. More specifically, we study here the general case of two hetons, which collide with an offset between their translation axes. For this purpose, we use the point vortex theory, the ellipsoidal vortex model and direct simulations in the three-dimensional quasi-geostrophic, contour surgery model. More specifically, this paper shows that there are in general three regimes for the interaction. For small horizontal offsets between the hetons, their vortices recombine as same-depth dipoles which escape at an angle. The angle depends in particular on the horizontal offset. It is a right angle for no offset, and the angle is shallower for small but finite offsets. The second limiting regime is for large horizontal offsets where the two hetons remain the same hetonic structures but are deflected by the weaker mutual interaction. Finally the intermediate regime is for moderate
offsets. This is the regime where the formation of a meta-stable quadrupole is
possible. The formation of this quadrupole greatly restrains transport. Indeed, it constrains the vortices to reside in a closed area. It is shown that the formation of such structures is enhanced by the quasi periodic deformation of the vortices. Indeed, these structures are nearly unobtainable for singular vortices (point vortices) but may be obtained using deformable, finite-core vortices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-443
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date4 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


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