Dynamics of circular arrangements of vorticity in two dimensions
Vilasur Swaminathan, Rohith
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The merger of two like-signed vortices is a well-studied problem, but in a turbulent ow, we may often have more than two like-signed vortices interacting. We study the merger of three or more identical co-rotating vortices initially arranged on the vertices of a regular polygon. At low to moderate Reynolds numbers, we find an additional stage in the merger process, absent in the merger of two vortices, where an annular vortical structure is formed and is long-lived. Vortex merger is slowed down significantly due to this. Such annular vortices are known at far higher Reynolds numbers in studies of tropical cyclones, which have been noticed to a break down into individual vortices. In the pre-annular stage, vortical structures in a viscous ow are found here to tilt and realign in a manner similar to the inviscid case, but the pronounced filaments visible in the latter are practically absent in the former. Five or fewer vortices initially elongate radially, and then reorient their long axis closer to the azimuthal direction so as to form an annulus. With six or more vortices, the initial alignment is already azimuthal. Interestingly at higher Reynolds numbers, the merger of an odd number of vortices is found to proceed very differently from that of an even number. The former process is rapid and chaotic whereas the latter proceeds more slowly via pairing events. The annular vortex takes the form of a generalised Lamb-Oseen vortex (GLO), and diffuses inwards until it forms a standard Lamb-Oseen vortex. For lower Reynolds number, the numerical (fully nonlinear) evolution of the GLO vortex follows exactly the analytical evolution until merger. At higher Reynolds numbers, the annulus goes through instabilities whose nonlinear stages show a pronounced difference between even and odd mode disturbances. Here again, the odd mode causes an early collapse of the annulus via decaying turbulence into a single central vortex, whereas the even mode disturbance causes a more orderly progression into a single vortex. Results from linear stability analysis agree with the nonlinear simulations, and predict the frequencies of the most unstable modes better than they predict the growth rates. It is hoped that the present findings, that multiple vortex merger is qualitatively different from the merger of two vortices, will motivate studies on how multiple vortex interactions affect the inverse cascade in two-dimensional turbulence.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2016. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of American Physical Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Physical Review E 94 (2016): 013105, doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.94.013105.