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Resistivity-Driven State Changes in Vertically Stratified Accretion Disks

Hawley, John; Simon, Jacob; Beckwith, Kris
Hawley, John
Simon, Jacob
Beckwith, Kris
We investigate the effect of shear viscosity, ν, and Ohmic resistivity, η, on the magnetorotational instability (MRI) in vertically stratified accretion disks through a series of local simulations with the Athena code. First, we use a series of unstratified simulations to calibrate physical dissipation as a function of resolution and background field strength; the effect of the magnetic Prandtl number, Pm = ν/η, on the turbulence is captured by ∼32 grid zones per disk scale height, H. In agreement with previous results, our stratified disk calculations are characterized by a subthermal, predominately toroidal magnetic field that produces MRI-driven turbulence for |z| ≲ 2H. Above |z| ∼ 2H, the magnetic pressure dominates and the field is buoyantly unstable. Large- scale radial and toroidal fields are also generated near the mid-plane and subsequently rise through the disk. The polarity of this mean field switches on a roughly 10 orbit period in a process that is well modeled by an α–Ω dynamo. Turbulent stress increases with Pm but with a shallower dependence compared to unstratified simulations. For sufficiently large resistivity, η ∼ csH/1000, where cs is the sound speed, MRI turbulence within 2H of the mid-plane undergoes periods of resistive decay followed by regrowth. This regrowth is caused by amplification of the toroidal field via the dynamo. This process results in large amplitude variability in the stress on 10–100 orbital timescales, which may have relevance for partially ionized disks that are observed to have high- and low-accretion states.
Date Received
American Astronomical Society, 2011
Published Date
Sponsoring Agency
NASA Grants NNX08AX06H and NNX09AG02G
NSF grant AST0908869
This work has passed a peer-review process.
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