Structure of small-scale magnetic fields in the kinematic dynamo theory

Alexander Schekochihin, Steven Cowley, Jason Maron, Leonid Malyshkin

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72 Scopus citations


A weak fluctuating magnetic field embedded into a a turbulent conducting medium grows exponentially while its characteristic scale decays. In the interstellar medium and protogalactic plasmas, the magnetic Prandtl number is very large, so a broad spectrum of growing magnetic fluctuations is excited at small (subviscous) scales. The condition for the onset of nonlinear back reaction depends on the structure of the field lines. We study the statistical correlations that are set up in the field pattern and show that the magnetic-field lines possess a folding structure, where most of the scale decrease is due to the field variation across itself (rapid transverse direction reversals), while the scale of the field variation along itself stays approximately constant. Specifically, we find that, though both the magnetic energy and the mean-square curvature of the field lines grow exponentially, the field strength and the field-line curvature are anticorrelated, i.e., the curved field is relatively weak, while the growing field is relatively flat. The detailed analysis of the statistics of the curvature shows that it possesses a stationary limiting distribution with the bulk located at the values of curvature comparable to the characteristic wave number of the velocity field and a power tail extending to large values of curvature where it is eventually cut off by the resistive regularization. The regions of large curvature, therefore, occupy only a small fraction of the total volume of the system. Our theoretical results are corroborated by direct numerical simulations. The implication of the folding effect is that the advent of the Lorentz back reaction occurs when the magnetic energy approaches that of the smallest turbulent eddies. Our results also directly apply to the problem of statistical geometry of the material lines in a random flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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