The stability and energetics of corotating uniform vortices

David G. Dritschel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Citations (Scopus)


Equilibrium shapes of two-dimensional rotating configurations of uniform vortices are numerically calculated for two to eight corotating vortices. Additionally, a perturbation series is developed which approximately describes the vortex shapes. The equilibrium configurations are subjected to a linear stability analysis. This analysis both confirms existing results regarding point vortices and shows that finite vortices may destabilize via a new form of instability derived from boundary deformations. Finally, we examine the energetics of the equilibrium configurations. We introduce a new energy quantity called ‘excess energy’, which is particularly useful in understanding the constraints on the evolution of unstable near-equilibrium configurations. This theory offers a first glance at nonlinear stability. As an example, the theory explains some features of the merger of two vortices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-134
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1985


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