Planar velocity dynamos in a sphere

Al Haji Akbar Bachtiar, D. J. Ivers, R. W. James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The Earth's main magnetic field is generally believed to be due to a self-exciting dynamo process in the Earth's fluid outer core. A variety of antidynamo theorems exist that set conditions under which a magnetic field cannot be indefinitely maintained by dynamo action against ohmic decay. One such theorem, the Planar Velocity Antidynamo Theorem, precludes field maintenance when the flow is everywhere parallel to some plane, e.g. the equatorial plane. This paper shows that the proof of the Planar Velocity Theorem fails when the flow is confined to a sphere, due to diffusive coupling at the boundary. Then, the theorem reverts to a conjecture. There is a need to either prove the conjecture, or find a functioning planar velocity dynamo. To the latter end, this paper formulates the toroidal-poloidal spectral form of the magnetic induction equation for planar flows, as a basis for a numerical investigation. We have thereby determined magnetic field growth rates associated with various planar flows in spheres. For most flows, the induced magnetic field decays with time, supporting a planar velocity antidynamo conjecture for a spherical conducting fluid. However, one flow is exceptional, indicating that magnetic field growth can occur. We also re-examine some classical kinematic dynamo models, converting the flows where possible to planar flows. For the flow of Pekeris et al (Pekeris, C. L., Accad, Y. & Shkoller, B. 1973 Kinematic dynamos and the Earth's magnetic field. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 275, 425-461), this conversion dramatically reduces the critical magnetic Reynolds number.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2439-2456
Number of pages18
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2072
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Antidynamo theorem
  • Dynamo theory
  • Kinematic dynamo
  • Planar flow


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