An explanation for anomalous vortex merger in rotating‐tank experiments

Carnevale, GF, Cavazza P, Orlandi P, Purini R.  1991.  An explanation for anomalous vortex merger in rotating‐tank experiments. Physics of Fluids a-Fluid Dynamics. 3:1411-1415.

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2 dimensions, vortices


Theory and simulations based on the two-dimensional Euler equation predict a critical distance of separation for the merger of two like-signed vortices. By the symmetry of the equation, this separation must be the same for both cyclone and anticyclone pairs. In rotating-tank experiments, the observed critical separation distance for anticyclone merger is in accord with predictions; however, pairs of cyclones have been found to merge in all cases examined, even with separations substantially greater than the predicted critical separation. The hypothesis that this discrepancy is due to the presence of Ekman volume fluxes, which are not incorporated in the two-dimensional theory, is examined and found not quantitatively supportable. A second hypothesis is that the parabolic curvature of the free upper surface of the fluid in the rotating tank induces motion of the cyclones toward the center of the tank and hence promotes the cyclone pair merger. Quasigeostrophic simulations which capture this "topography effect" show good agreement with the rotating-tank experiments.