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Confinement of rotating convection by a laterally varying magnetic field

Sreenivasan, Binod and Gopinath, Venkatesh (2017) Confinement of rotating convection by a laterally varying magnetic field. In: JOURNAL OF FLUID MECHANICS, 822 . pp. 590-616.

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Spherical shell dynamo models based on rotating convection show that the flow within the tangent cylinder is dominated by an off-axis plume that extends from the inner core boundary to high latitudes and drifts westward. Earlier studies explained the formation of such a plume in terms of the effect of a uniform axial magnetic field that significantly increases the length scale of convection in a rotating plane layer. However, rapidly rotating dynamo simulations show that the magnetic field within the tangent cylinder has severe lateral inhomogeneities that may influence the onset of an isolated plume. Increasing the rotation rate in our dynamo simulations (by decreasing the Ekman number E) produces progressively thinner plumes that appear to seek out the location where the field is strongest. Motivated by this result, we examine the linear onset of convection in a rapidly rotating fluid layer subject to a laterally varying axial magnetic field. A Cartesian geometry is chosen where the finite dimensions. (x; z) mimic. (phi, z) in cylindrical coordinates. The lateral inhomogeneity of the field gives rise to a unique mode of instability where convection is entirely confined to the peak-field region. The localization of the flow by the magnetic field occurs even when the field strength (measured by the Elsasser number Lambda) is small and viscosity controls the smallest length scale of convection. The lowest Rayleigh number at which an isolated plume appears within the tangent cylinder in spherical shell dynamo simulations agrees closely with the viscous-mode Rayleigh number in the plane layer linear magnetoconvection model. The lowest Elsasser number for plume formation in the simulations is significantly higher than the onset values in linear magnetoconvection, which indicates that the viscous-magnetic mode transition point with spatially varying fields is displaced to much higher Elsasser numbers. The localized excitation of viscous-mode convection by a laterally varying magnetic field provides a mechanism for the formation of isolated plumes within the Earth's tangent cylinder. The polar vortices in the Earth's core can therefore be non-axisymmetric. More generally, this study shows that a spatially varying magnetic field strongly controls the structure of rotating convection at a Rayleigh number not much different from its non-magnetic value.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belong to the CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 32 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NY 10013-2473 USA
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Centre for Earth Sciences
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2017 06:15
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2017 06:15
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/57315

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