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The key element of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics—reorganization of potential vorticity (PV) by nonlinear processes—is studied numerically for isolated vortices in a uniform environment. Many theoretical studies and laboratory experiments suggest that axisymmetric vortices with a Gaussian shape are not able to remain circular owing to the growth of small perturbations in the typical parameter range of abundant long-lived vortices. An example of vortex destabilization and the eventual formation of more intense self-propagating structures is presented using a 3D rotating stratified Boussinesq numerical model. The peak vorticity growth found during the stages of strong elongation and fragmentation is related to the transfer of available potential energy into kinetic energy of vortices. In order to develop a theoretical model of a stable circular vortex with a small Burger number compatible with observations, we suggest a simple stabilizing procedure involving the modification of peripheral PV gradients. The results have important implications for better understanding of real-ocean eddies.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.