Slow Modes in Convecting Liquid Metal
Abstract:Slow, large-scale magnetostrophic wave modes are expected to develop in rapidly-rotating magnetohydrodynamic systems. These slow modes arise due to a leading order balance between Coriolis and Lorentz forces, with negligible effects of fluid inertia. Such slow modes have long been argued to be the primary cause of the long period (e.g., century-scale) variations in observations of the geomagnetic field. Yet, to date, such slow modes have yet to develop in global-scale numerical models of planetary dynamo action.
Here we present the results of closely coupled laboratory-numerical simulations of rapidly rotating magnetoconvection in liquid gallium, in which we find strong evidence for slow modes developing near, as well as beyond, the onset of convection. Preliminary results from an associated survey of numerical simulations are allowing us to determine under what range of conditions slow convective modes exist. Thus far, it appears they develop only in low Prandtl number fluids, in which the thermal diffusivity significantly exceeds the viscous diffusivity, as occurs in liquid metals. Our findings suggest more metal-like fluid properties are necessary for the development of slow modes in convection-driven global-scale dynamo models.