Axisymmetric MHD instabilities in solar/stellar tachoclines

Mausumi Dikpati, Peter A Gilman, Paul Stuart Cally, Mark S Miesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Extensive studies over the past decade showed that HD and MHD nonaxisymmetric instabilities exist in the solar tachocline for a wide range of toroidal field profiles, amplitudes, and latitude locations. Axisymmetric instabilities (m = 0) do not exist in two dimensions, and are excited in quasi-three-dimensional shallow-water systems only for very high field strengths (2 mG). We investigate here MHD axisymmetric instabilities in a three-dimensional thin-shell model of the solar/stellar tachocline, employing a hydrostatic, non-Boussinesq system of equations. We deduce a number of general properties of the instability by use of an integral theorem, as well as finding detailed numerical solutions for unstable modes. Toroidal bands become unstable to axisymmetric perturbations for solar-like field strengths (100 kG). The e-folding time can be months down to a few hours if the field strength is 1 mG or higher, which might occur in the solar core, white dwarfs, or neutron stars. These instabilities exist without rotation, with rotation, and with differential rotation, although both rotation and differential rotation have stabilizing effects. Broad toroidal fields are stable. The instability for modes with m = 0 is driven from the poleward shoulder of banded profiles by a perturbation magnetic curvature stress that overcomes the stabilizing Coriolis force. The nonaxisymmetric instability tips or deforms a band; with axisymmetric instability, the fluid can roll in latitude and radius, and can convert bands into tubes stacked in radius. The velocity produced by this instability in the case of low-latitude bands crosses the equator, and hence can provide a mechanism for interhemispheric coupling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421 - 1431
Number of pages11
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this