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Approaching Earth's core conditions in high-resolution geodynamo simulations

Abstract : The geodynamo features a broad separation between the large scale at which Earth's magnetic field is sustained against ohmic dissipation and the small scales of the turbulent and electrically conducting underlying fluid flow in the outer core. Here, the properties of this scale separation are analysed using high-resolution numerical simulations that approach closer to Earth's core conditions than earlier models. The new simulations are obtained by increasing the resolution and gradually relaxing the hyperdiffusive approximation of previously published low-resolution cases. This upsizing process does not perturb the previously obtained large-scale, leading-order quasi-geostrophic (QG) and first-order magneto-Archimedes-Coriolis (MAC) force balances. As a result, upsizing causes only weak transients typically lasting a fraction of a convective overturn time, thereby demonstrating the efficiency of this approach to reach extreme conditions at reduced computational cost. As Earth's core conditions are approached in the upsized simulations, Ohmic losses dissipate up to 97 per cent of the injected convective power. Kinetic energy spectra feature a gradually broadening self-similar, power-law spectral range extending over more than a decade in length scale. In this range, the spectral energy density profile of vorticity is shown to be approximately flat between the large scale at which the magnetic field draws its energy from convection through the QG-MAC force balance and the small scale at which this energy is dissipated. The resulting velocity and density anomaly planforms in the physical space consist in large-scale columnar sheets and plumes, respectively, co-existing with small-scale vorticity filaments and density anomaly ramifications. In contrast, magnetic field planforms keep their large-scale structure after upsizing. The small-scale vorticity filaments are aligned with the large-scale magnetic field lines, thereby minimizing the dynamical influence of the Lorentz force. The diagnostic outputs of the upsized simulations are more consistent with the asymptotic QG-MAC theory than those of the low-resolution cases that they originate from, but still feature small residual deviations that may call for further theoretical refinements to account for the structuring constraints of the magnetic field on the flow.
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Julien Aubert. Approaching Earth's core conditions in high-resolution geodynamo simulations. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019, 219, pp.S137-S151. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggz232⟩. ⟨insu-03586610⟩

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