The inherently three-dimensional nature of magnetized plasma turbulence

Gregory G. Howes
2014 Journal of Plasma Physics  
It is often asserted or implicitly assumed, without justification, that the results of two-dimensional investigations of plasma turbulence are applicable to the three-dimensional plasma environments of interest. A projection method is applied to derive two scalar equations that govern the nonlinear evolution of the Alfvenic and pseudo-Alfvenic components of ideal incompressible magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) plasma turbulence. The mathematical form of these equations makes clear the inherently
more » ... dimensional nature of plasma turbulence, enabling an analysis of the nonlinear properties of two-dimensional limits often used to study plasma turbulence. In the anisotropic limit k_perp >>k_parallel that naturally arises in magnetized plasma systems, the perpendicular 2D limit retains the dominant nonlinearities that are mediated only by the Alfvenic fluctuations but lacks the wave physics associated with the linear term that is necessary to capture the anisotropic cascade of turbulent energy. In the in-plane 2D limit, the nonlinear energy transfer is controlled instead by the pseudo-Alfven waves, with the Alfven waves relegated to a passive role. In the oblique 2D limit, an unavoidable azimuthal dependence connecting the wavevector components will likely cause artificial azimuthal asymmetries in the resulting turbulent dynamics. Therefore, none of these 2D limits is sufficient to capture fully the rich three-dimensional nonlinear dynamics critical to the evolution of plasma turbulence.
doi:10.1017/s0022377814001056 fatcat:msutlnfax5a37hvecbjs6ae4z4