Journal article

Dynamical properties of vortical structures on the beta-plane

The long-time evolution of monopolar and dipolar vortices influenced by the large-scale gradient of the ambient potential vorticity (the beta-effect) is studied by direct numerical solutions of the equivalent barotropic quasi-geostrophic equation. Translation and reorganization of vortical structures are shown to depend strongly on their intensity. Transport of trapped fluid by vortical structures is illustrated by calculating particle trajectories and by considering closed isolines of potential vorticity and the streamfunction in a co-moving reference frame. The initial behaviour of strong monopoles is found to be well described by a recent approximate theory for the evolution of azimuthal mode one, even for times longer than the linear Rossby wave period. In the long-time limit, strong monopoles transport particles mainly westward, although the meridional displacement is several times larger than the initial vortex size. The appearance of an annulus with opposite radial gradient of the potential vorticity around the vortex core is demonstrated. This annulus forms owing to the meridional vortex drift on the beta-plane and results in reorganization of a strong monopolar vortex into a rotating tripole. A critical value of the vortex intensity is found, below which the tripolar structure does not appear even in the case of an initially shielded vortex. Weak monopolar vortices are able to trap particles and provide some west-meridional fluid transport, even in the case when they decay like a linear Rossby wave packet. The evolution of initial f-plane dipoles on the beta-plane is strongly dependent on the initial direction of propagation. Strong dipoles adjust to steadily propagating modon solutions either accelerating (westward case), decelerating (eastward case) or oscillating with a decaying amplitude (meridional case), thereby carrying trapped particles predominantly eastward. A steady state is not reached if the dipole intensity is below a critical value which depends on the initial direction of propagation. Weak dipoles either decay and shrink owing to Rossby wave radiation (westward case), gradually separate and split (eastward case), or disintegrate (meridional case) without long-distance fluid transport. Thus, on the beta-plane monopoles provide mainly westward transport of trapped fluid, whereas dipoles provide mainly eastward transport. Only strong monopoles are found to provide significant meridional fluid transport.

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