We have applied the methods of classical statistical mechanics to derive the inviscid equilibrium states for one- and two-layer nonlinear quasi-geostrophic flows, with and without bottom topography and variable rotation rate. In the one-layer case without topography we recover the equilibrium energy spectrum given by Kraichnan (1967). In the two-layer case, we find that the internal radius of deformation constitutes an important dividing scale: at scales of motion larger than the radius of deformation the equilibrium flow is nearly barotropic, while at smaller scales the stream functions in the two layers are statistically uncorrelated. The equilibrium lower-layer flow is positively correlated with bottom topography (anticyclonic flow over seamounts) and the correlation extends to the upper layer at scales larger than the radius of deformation. We suggest that some of the statistical trends observed in non-equilibrium flows may be looked on as manifestations of the tendency for turbulent interactions to maximize the entropy of the system.
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