Three-dimensional quasi-geostrophic staggered vortex arrays

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We determine and characterise relative equilibria for arrays of point vortices in a three-dimensional quasi-geostrophic flow. The vortices are equally spaced along two horizontal rings whose centre lies on the same vertical axis. An additional vortex may be placed along this vertical axis. Depending on the parameters defining the array, the vortices on the two rings are of equal or opposite sign. We address the linear stability of the point vortex arrays. We find both stable equilibria and unstable equilibria, depending on the geometry of the array. For unstable arrays, the instability may lead to the quasi-regular or to the chaotic motion of the point vortices. The linear stability of the vortex arrays depends on the number of vortices in the array, on the radius ratio between the two rings, on the vertical offset between the rings and on the vertical offset between the rings and the central vortex, when the latter is present. In this case the linear stability also depends on the strength of the central vortex. The nonlinear evolution of a selection of unstable cases is presented exhibiting examples of quasi-regular motion and of chaotic motion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505–525
Number of pages21
JournalRegular and Chaotic Dynamics
Issue number5
Early online date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Quasi-geostrophy
  • Point vortex dynamics
  • Equilbria
  • Vortex arrays


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