## Abstract

An initial zonally symmetric quasigeostrophic potential vorticity (PV) distribution *q _{i}*(

*y*) is subjected to complete or partial mixing within some finite zone |

*y*| <

*L*, where

*y*is latitude. The change in

*M*, the total absolute angular momentum, between the initial and any later time is considered. For standard quasigeostrophic shallow-water beta-channel dynamics it is proved that, for any

*q*(

_{i}*y*) such that

*dq*/

_{i}*dy*> 0 throughout |

*y*| <

*L*, the change in

*M*is always negative. This theorem holds even when “mixing” is understood in the most general possible sense. Arbitrary stirring or advective rearrangement is included, combined to an arbitrary extent with spatially inhomogeneous diffusion. The theorem holds whether or not the PV distribution is zonally symmetric at the later time. The same theorem governs Boussinesq potential-energy changes due to buoyancy mixing in the vertical. For the standard quasigeostrophic beta-channel dynamics to be valid the Rossby deformation length

*L*≫

_{D}*ϵL*where

*ϵ*is the Rossby number; when

*L*= ∞ the theorem applies not only to the beta channel but also to a single barotropic layer on the full sphere, as considered in the recent work of Dunkerton and Scott on “PV staircases.” It follows that the

_{D}*M*-conserving PV reconfigurations studied by those authors must involve processes describable as PV unmixing, or antidiffusion, in the sense of time-reversed diffusion. Ordinary jet self-sharpening and jet-core acceleration do not, by contrast, require unmixing, as is shown here by detailed analysis. Mixing in the jet flanks suffices. The theorem extends to multiple layers and continuous stratification. A least upper bound and greatest lower bound for the change in

*M*is obtained for cases in which

*q*is neither monotonic nor zonally symmetric. A corollary is a new nonlinear stability theorem for shear flows.

_{i}*Corresponding author address:* Richard B. Wood, University of Cambridge, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA, United Kingdom. Email: r.b.wood@damtp.cam.ac.uk