Turbulent Regimes in Collisions of 3D Alfvén-wave Packets

S. S. Cerri, T. Passot, D. Laveder, P. L. Sulem, M. W. Kunz

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Using three-dimensional gyrofluid simulations, we revisit the problem of Alfvén-wave (AW) collisions as building blocks of the Alfvénic turbulent cascade and their interplay with magnetic reconnection at magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) scales. Depending on the large-scale value of the nonlinearity parameter χ 0 (the ratio between the AW linear propagation time and nonlinear turnover time), different regimes are observed. For strong nonlinearities (χ 0 ∼ 1), turbulence is consistent with a dynamically aligned, critically balanced cascade—fluctuations exhibit a scale-dependent alignment sin θ k ⊥ ∝ k ⊥ − 1 / 4 , resulting in a k ⊥ − 3 / 2 spectrum and k ∥ ∝ k ⊥ 1 / 2 spectral anisotropy. At weaker nonlinearities (small χ 0), a spectral break marking the transition between a large-scale weak regime and a small-scale k ⊥ − 11 / 5 tearing-mediated range emerges, implying that dynamic alignment occurs also for weak nonlinearities. At χ 0 < 1 the alignment angle θ k ⊥ shows a stronger scale dependence than in the χ 0 ∼ 1 regime, namely sin θ k ⊥ ∝ k ⊥ − 1 / 2 at χ 0 ∼ 0.5, and sin θ k ⊥ ∝ k ⊥ − 1 at χ 0 ∼ 0.1. Dynamic alignment in the weak regime also modifies the large-scale spectrum, scaling approximately as k ⊥ − 3 / 2 for χ 0 ∼ 0.5 and as k ⊥ − 1 for χ 0 ∼ 0.1. A phenomenological theory of dynamically aligned turbulence at weak nonlinearities that can explain these spectra and the transition to the tearing-mediated regime is provided; at small χ 0, the strong scale dependence of the alignment angle combines with the increased lifetime of turbulent eddies to allow tearing to onset and mediate the cascade at scales that can be larger than those predicted for a critically balanced cascade by several orders of magnitude. Such a transition to tearing-mediated turbulence may even supplant the usual weak-to-strong transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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