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Magnetoconvection in a rotating spherical shell in the presence of a uniform axial magnetic field

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Mason, Dr Celine Guervilly, Dr Graeme Sarson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


We report simulations of thermal convection and magnetic-field generation in a rapidly-rotating spherical shell, in the presence of a uniform axial magnetic field of variable strength. We consider the effect of the imposed field on the critical parameters (Rayleigh number, azimuthal wavenumber and propagation frequency) for the onset of convection, and on the relative importance of Coriolis, buoyancy and Lorentz forces in the resulting solutions. The imposed field strength must be of order one (corresponding to an Elsasser number of unity) to observe significant modifications of the flow; in this case, all the critical parameters are reduced, an effect that is more pronounced at small Ekman numbers. Beyond onset, we study the variations of the structure and properties of the magnetically-modified convective flows with increasing Rayleigh numbers. In particular, we note the weak relative kinetic helicity, the rapid breakdown of the columnarity, and the enhanced heat transport efficiency of the flows obtained for imposed field strengths of order one. Furthermore, magnetic and thermal winds drive a significant zonal flow in this case, which is not present with no imposed field or with stronger imposed fields. The mechanisms for magnetic field generation (particularly the lengthscales involved in the axisymmetric field production) vary with the strength of the imposed field, with three distinct regimes being observed for weak, order one, and stronger imposed fields. In the last two cases, the induced magnetic field reinforces the imposed field, even exceeding its strength for large Rayleigh numbers, which suggests that magnetically-modified flows might be able to produce large-scale self-sustained magnetic field. These magnetoconvection calculations are relevant to planets orbiting magnetically active hosts, and also help to elucidate the mechanisms for field generation in a strong-field regime.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mason SJ, Guervilly C, Sarson GR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

Year: 2022

Volume: 116

Issue: 5-6

Pages: 458-498

Online publication date: 12/08/2022

Acceptance date: 25/07/2022

Date deposited: 21/07/2022

ISSN (print): 0309-1929

ISSN (electronic): 1029-0419

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/03091929.2022.2107202


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Funder referenceFunder name
Eiffel programme
NE/M017893/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)