Journal Article

A mean-field approach to the propagation of field patterns in stratified magnetorotational turbulence

Oliver Gressel

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 405, issue 1, pages 41-48
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
A mean-field approach to the propagation of field patterns in stratified magnetorotational turbulence

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Local shearing box simulations of stratified magnetorotational turbulence invariably exhibit cyclic field patterns which propagate away from the disc mid-plane. A common explanation for this is magnetic buoyancy. The recent analysis by Shi et al. however shows that the flow is buoyantly stable below one disc scaleheight H, necessitating an alternative explanation in this region.

We here conduct and analyse direct numerical simulations to explain the observed behaviour by means of a mean-field description. Apart from the mean radial and azimuthal field, we monitor the small-scale current helicity, which we propose as a key indicator for saturation.

Reconstructing the horizontally averaged field, we demonstrate that the problem can be reduced to a 1D induction equation. By means of the so-called test field method, we then determine the underlying closure parameters. Our analysis shows that, apart from a possible direct magnetorotational instability (MRI) dynamo, two distinct indirect dynamo mechanisms operate in the disc. This resolves the issue of the ‘wrong’ sign of the MRI dynamo effect.

Finally, we use the obtained closure parameters to run a dynamically quenched dynamo model. This model approximately recovers the observed field patterns in the mean fields. Moreover, the model reproduces the prevailing parity and the distinct phase pattern in the small-scale current helicity. The latter property might open a potential route to understand the saturation of MRI induced turbulence.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; MHD; methods: numerical

Journal Article.  5593 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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