The effects of localized two-dimensional disturbances on the structure of shear flows featuring a stagnation line are investigated. A simple superposition of a planar Couette flow and Moffatt's [J. Fluid Mech. 18, 1--18 (1964)] streamfunction for the decay of a disturbance between infinite stationary parallel plates shows that in general the stagnation line is replaced by a chain of alternating elliptic and hyperbolic stagnation points with a separation equal to 2.78 times the half-gap between the plates. The flow structure associated with each saddle point consists of a homoclinic separatrix and two other separatrices which locally diverge but become parallel far from the disturbance. This basic structure repeats to give a sequence of nested separatrices permitting the streamfunction to approach that of simple shear flow far from the disturbance. Using the finite element method, the specific disturbance caused by a stationary cylinder placed on the stagnation line is considered, and results confirm the existence of the stagnation point chain, with computed separations and velocity damping ratios in very good agreement with those obtained from the Couette-Moffatt superposition. Numerical solutions also illustrate that while Reynolds number greatly affects the stagnation point separation and velocity damping ratio, these two quantities are the same for any pair of adjacent stagnation points in a given chain. Insight gained from the analysis of planar shear flows is applied to the flow in a half-filled horizontal annulus between rotating coaxial cylinders, and is used to explain why only certain flow patterns from the range of mathematically possible structures arise in previous numerical solutions. By way of contrast, the concentric annulus solution is then perturbed to allow for a small eccentricity. The non-uniformity of the inter-cylinder gap is shown to destroy the chain of stagnation points, but also to unfold additional flow structures not realizable when the gap is uniform
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