The Weakly Nonlinear Magnetorotational Instability in a Global, Cylindrical Taylor─Couette Flow


We conduct a global, weakly nonlinear analysis of the magnetorotational instability (MRI) in a Taylor─Couette flow. This is a multiscale, perturbative treatment of the nonideal, axisymmetric MRI near threshold, subject to realistic radial boundary conditions and cylindrical geometry. We analyze both the standard MRI, initialized by a constant vertical background magnetic field, and the helical MRI, with an azimuthal background field component. This is the first weakly nonlinear analysis of the MRI in a global Taylor─Couette geometry, as well as the first weakly nonlinear analysis of the helical MRI. We find that the evolution of the amplitude of the standard MRI is described by a real Ginzburg─Landau equation (GLE), whereas the amplitude of the helical MRI takes the form of a complex GLE. This suggests that the saturated state of the helical MRI may itself be unstable on long spatial and temporal scales.

The Astrophysical Journal