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Scaling properties of convection-driven dynamos in rotating spherical shells and application to planetary magnetic fields

Abstract : We study numerically an extensive set of dynamo models in rotating spherical shells, varying all relevant control parameters by at least two orders of magnitude. Convection is driven by a fixed temperature contrast between rigid boundaries. There are two distinct classes of solutions with strong and weak dipole contributions to the magnetic field, respectively. Non-dipolar dynamos are found when inertia plays a significant role in the force balance. In the dipolar regime the critical magnetic Reynolds number for self-sustained dynamos is of order 50, independent of the magnetic Prandtl number Pm. However, dynamos at low Pm exist only at sufficiently low Ekman number E. For dynamos in the dipolar regime we attempt to establish scaling laws that fit our numerical results. Assuming that diffusive effects do not play a primary role, we introduce non-dimensional parameters that are independent of any diffusivity. These are a modified Rayleigh number based on heat (or buoyancy) flux Ra*Q, the Rossby number Ro measuring the flow velocity, the Lorentz number Lo measuring magnetic field strength, and a modified Nusselt number Nu* for the advected heat flow. To first approximation, all our dynamo results can be collapsed into simple power-law dependencies on the modified Rayleigh number, with approximate exponents of 2/5, 1/2 and 1/3 for the Rossby number, modified Nusselt number and Lorentz number, respectively. Residual dependencies on the parameters related to diffusion (E, Pm, Prandtl number Pr) are weak. Our scaling laws are in agreement with the assumption that the magnetic field strength is controlled by the available power and not necessarily by a force balance. The Elsasser number ?, which is the conventional measure for the ratio of Lorentz force to Coriolis force, is found to vary widely. We try to assess the relative importance of the various forces by studying sources and sinks of enstrophy (squared vorticity). In general Coriolis and buoyancy forces are of the same order, inertia and viscous forces make smaller and variable contributions, and the Lorentz force is highly variable. Ignoring a possible weak dependence on the Prandtl numbers or the Ekman number, a surprising prediction is that the magnetic field strength is independent both of conductivity and of rotation rate and is basically controlled by the buoyancy flux. Estimating the buoyancy flux in the Earth's core using our Rossby number scaling and a typical velocity inferred from geomagnetic secular variations, we predict a small growth rate and old age of the inner core and obtain a reasonable magnetic field strength of order 1 mT inside the core. From the observed heat flow in Jupiter, we predict an internal field of 8 mT, in agreement with Jupiter's external field being 10 times stronger than that of the Earth.
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U.R. Christensen, Julien Aubert. Scaling properties of convection-driven dynamos in rotating spherical shells and application to planetary magnetic fields. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2006, 166 (1), pp.97-114. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.03009.x⟩. ⟨hal-00149194⟩



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