Locality of MHD turbulence in isothermal disks

Xiaoyue Guan, Charles F. Gammie, Jacob B. Simon, Bryan M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We numerically evolve turbulence driven by the magnetorotational instability (MRI) in a three-dimensional, unstratified shearing box and study its structure using two-point correlation functions. We confirm Fromang and Papaloizou's result that shearing box models with zero net magnetic flux are not converged; the dimensionless shear stress α is proportional to the grid scale. We find that the two-point correlation of shows that it is composed of narrow filaments that are swept back by differential rotation into a trailing spiral. The correlation lengths along each of the correlation function principal axes decrease monotonically with the grid scale. For mean azimuthal field models, which we argue are more relevant to astrophysical disks than the zero net field models, we find that: α increases weakly with increasing resolution at fixed box size; α increases slightly as the box size is increased; α increases linearly with net field strength, confirming earlier results; the two-point correlation function of the magnetic field is resolved and converged, and is composed of narrow filaments swept back by the shear; the major axis of the two-point increases slightly as the box size is increased; these results are code independent, based on a comparison of ATHENA and ZEUS runs. The velocity, density, and magnetic fields decorrelate over scales larger than ∼ H, as do the dynamical terms in the magnetic energy evolution equations. We conclude that MHD turbulence in disks is localized, subject to the limitations imposed by the absence of vertical stratification, the use of an isothermal equation of state, finite box size, finite run time, and finite resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1018
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • MHD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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