Magnetohydrodynamic Turbulence in the Plasmoid-mediated Regime

L. Comisso, Y. M. Huang, M. Lingam, E. Hirvijoki, A. Bhattacharjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Magnetohydrodynamic turbulence and magnetic reconnection are ubiquitous in astrophysical environments. In most situations these processes do not occur in isolation but interact with each other. This renders a comprehensive theory of these processes highly challenging. Here we propose a theory of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence driven at a large scale that self-consistently accounts for the mutual interplay with magnetic reconnection occurring at smaller scales. Magnetic reconnection produces plasmoids (flux ropes) that grow from turbulence-generated noise and eventually disrupt the sheet-like structures in which they are born. The disruption of these structures leads to a modification of the turbulent energy cascade, which in turn exerts a feedback effect on the plasmoid formation via the turbulence-generated noise. The energy spectrum in this plasmoid-mediated range steepens relative to the standard inertial range and does not follow a simple power law. As a result of the complex interplay between turbulence and reconnection, we also find that the length scale that marks the beginning of the plasmoid-mediated range and the dissipation length scale do not obey true power laws. The transitional magnetic Reynolds number above which the plasmoid formation becomes statistically significant enough to affect the turbulent cascade is fairly modest, implying that plasmoids are expected to modify the turbulent path to dissipation in many astrophysical systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • magnetic fields
  • magnetic reconnection
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • plasmas
  • stars: coronae
  • turbulence


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