Three-dimensionally perturbed vortex tubes in a rotating flow

Carnevale, GF, Briscolini M, Kloosterziel RC, Vallis GK.  1997.  Three-dimensionally perturbed vortex tubes in a rotating flow. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 341:127-163.

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barotropic vortices, evolution, fluid, homogeneous turbulence, isotropic turbulence, laboratory experiments, large-eddy simulation, merger, tank, waves


Numerical experiments are used to study the evolution of perturbed vortex tubes in a rotating environment in order to better understand the process of two-dimensionalization of unsteady rotating flows. We specifically consider non-axisymmetric perturbations to columnar vortices aligned along the axis of rotation. The basic unperturbed vortex is chosen to have a Gaussian cross-sectional vorticity distribution. The experiments cover a parameter space in which both the strength of the initial perturbation and the Rossby number are varied. The Rossby number is defined here as the ratio of the maximum amplitude of vorticity in the Gaussian vorticity profile to twice the ambient rotation rate. For small perturbations and small Rossby numbers, both cyclones and anticyclones behave similarly, relaxing rapidly back toward two-dimensional columnar vortices. For large perturbations and small Rossby numbers, a rapid instability occurs for both cyclones and anticyclones in which antiparallel vorticity is created. The tubes break up and then re-form again into columnar vortices parallel to the rotation axis (i.e. into a quasi-two-dimensional flow) through nonlinear processes. For Rossby numbers greater than 1, even small perturbations result in the complete breakdown of the anticyclonic vortex through centrifugal instability, while cyclones remain stable. For a range of Rossby numbers greater than 1, after the breakdown of the anticyclone, a new weaker anticyclone forms, with a small-scale background vorticity of spectral shape given approximately by the -5/3 energy spectral law.