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Dipole-quadrupole dynamics during magnetic field reversalsChristophe GissingerDepartment of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USAReceived 10 August 2010; published 4 November 2010The shape and the dynamics of reversals of the magnetic field in a turbulent dynamo experiment areinvestigated. We report the evolution of the dipolar and the quadrupolar parts of the magnetic field in the VKSexperiment, and show that the experimental results are in good agreement with the predictions of a recentmodel of reversals: when the dipole reverses, part of the magnetic energy is transferred to the quadrupole,reversals begin with a slow decay of the dipole and are followed by a fast recovery, together with an overshootof the dipole. Random reversals are observed at the borderline between stationary and oscillatory dynamos.DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.82.056302 PACS numbers: 47.65.d, 52.65.Kj, 91.25.CwDespite a large variability of the internal structure of plan-ets and stars, most of the observed astrophysical bodies pos-sess a coherent large scale magnetic field. It is widely ac-cepted that these natural magnetic fields are self-sustained bydynamo action 1. Although reversals of the magnetic fieldin planetary and stellar dynamos are now considered to be acommon feature, they still remain poorly understood.Whereas the Sun shows periodic oscillations of its magneticfield, the polarity of the Earths dipole field reverses ran-domly. During the last decades, several mechanisms havebeen proposed for geomagnetic reversals, among which wecan mention, the analogy with a bistable oscillator 2, amean-field dynamo model 3, or interaction between dipolarand higher axisymmetric components of the magnetic field4,5. The comprehension of dynamo reversals have alsobenefited from direct numerical simulations of the MHDequations, which have displayed several possible mecha-nisms for reversals 68.Reversals of a dipolar magnetic field have also been re-ported in the VKS Von Karman Sodium dynamo experi-ment 9. In this experiment, periodic or chaotic flips of po-larity can be observed depending on the magnetic Reynoldsnumber. Based on these results, a model for reversals hasbeen recently proposed by Ptrlis and Fauve 11. It relieson the interaction between the dipolar and the quadrupolarmagnetic components, and describe transitions to periodicoscillations or randomly reversing dynamos. It has beenclaimed that such a mechanism could apply to the reversalsof the Earth magnetic field 12, and temptatively be con-nected to the periodic oscillations of the Solar dynamo. Un-fortunately, as for many other models, the lack of observa-tions of the magnetic field during a reversal limits a directcomparison with the actual geomagnetic reversals. From thispoint of view, the VKS experiment is a unique opportunity totest the validity of different models of turbulent reversingdynamos. In particular, the model 11 makes predictionsabout the dynamics that are easily confrontable to experi-mental results. We propose a simple way to analyze datafrom the VKS experiment in order to test this model. To wit,we extract from the data the dipolar and the quadrupolarcomponents of the magnetic field. We show that the charac-teristics of the reversals in the VKS experiment are in verygood agreement with the predictions, and that the dynamicsof the magnetic field in this turbulent dynamo mainly resultfrom an interaction between dipolar and quadrupolar modes.In the VKS experiment, a turbulent von Karman flow ofliquid sodium is generated inside a cylinder by two counter-rotating impellers, with independent rotation frequencies F1and F2 see Fig. 1, and 13 for the description of the setup.When F1=F2, the system is invariant about a rotation of anangle around any axis located in the midplane. On thecontrary, if the impellers rotate at different rates, this sym-metry, hereafter referred to as the R symmetry, is broken.The dynamics of the magnetic field observed in the experi-ment strongly depend on this symmetry. When F1=F2, astatistically stationary magnetic field with either polarity isgenerated, with a dominant axial dipolar component. Dy-namical regimes, including periodic oscillations and chaoticreversals of the magnetic field, are observed only when theR symmetry is broken F1F2.Previous studies have suggested that the evolution of themagnetic field in the VKS experiment results from low di-mensional dynamics, involving only a few modes in interac-tion 10. This can be ascribed to the proximity of the bifur-cation threshold and to the smallness of the magnetic Prandtlnumber in liquid metals Pm105. Indeed, in the low-Pmregime, the magnetic field is strongly damped compared tothe velocity field. Hence, the dynamics are governed only bya small number of magnetic modes. Based on this observa-tion, Ptrlis and Fauve 11 have proposed that close to thedynamo threshold, the magnetic field can be decomposedinto two components,B = Dtdr + Qtqr , 1where D respectively, Q represents the amplitude of dipolardr respectively, quadrupolar qr component of the field.FIG. 1. Color online Sketch of the VKS experiment.PHYSICAL REVIEW E 82, 056302 20101539-3755/2010/825/0563024 2010 The American Physical Society056302-1http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.82.056302As emphasized in 11, these components do not only in-volve a dipole or a quadrupole, but also all the higher com-ponents with the same symmetry in the transformation R. Inother words, dr respectively, qr is the antisymmetricrespectively, symmetric part of the magnetic field.The evolution equations for Dt and Qt can then beobtained by symmetry arguments see 11 for a detaileddescription of the model. Since dd and qq in thetransformation R, dipolar and quadrupolar modes cannot belinearly coupled when F1=F2. Breaking the R symmetry byrotating the impellers at different speeds allows a linear cou-pling between dipolar and quadrupolar modes. For a suffi-ciently strong symmetry-breaking, this coupling can generatea limit cycle that involves an energy transfer between dipolarand quadrupolar modes. This mechanism has been recentlyvalidated on a numerical model of the VKS experiment 15and also in the case of a mean-field 2 dynamo model 17.Two scenarios of transition from a stationary dynamo to aperiodically reversing magnetic field can be described in theframework of this dipole-quadrupole model. When the cou-pling is such that the system is close to both a stationary anda Hopf bifurcation, i.e., in the vicinity of a codimension-twobifurcation point, one can have bistability between a station-ary and a time-periodic reversing dynamo 13. We thus get asubcritical transition from a stationary dynamo to a periodicone with a finite frequency at onset. Turbulent fluctuationscan generate random transitions between these two regimes14. Far from this codimension-two point, a reversing mag-netic field can be generated through an Andronov bifurcationwhen the stationary state disappears through a saddle-nodebifurcation 11. Then, the frequency of the limit cycle van-ishes at onset. In the vicinity of this transition, turbulentfluctuations drive random reversals of the magnetic field. Asa consequence, random reversals always occur at the border-line between stationary and oscillatory dynamos. This simplemechanism also yields several predictions about the shape ofthe reversals. First, when the dipole D vanishes, part of themagnetic energy is transferred to the quadrupole Q. An over-shoot of the dipolar amplitude is expected after each reversal.Random reversals are asymmetric. During a first phase, fluc-tuations push the system from the stable solution to the un-stable one, thus acting against the deterministic dynamics.This phase is slow compared to the one beyond the unstablefixed point, where the system is driven to the opposite polar-ity under the action of the deterministic dynamics.In this paper, we use data of the VKS experiment in orderto reconstruct the dipolar and the quadrupolar parts of themagnetic field and study their behavior in the time dependentregimes. Time-dependent regimes only occur for specificvalues of F1 and F2, inside three delimited regions of theparameter space 14. We will focus on the regimes observedwhen following the line F1 /F2=0.6 in the parameter space.Figure 2 shows that when the rotation rates are increasedalong this line, one first bifurcates to a stationary dynamo,then to time-dependent regimes. Figure 3top shows thetime recordings of the three components of the magneticfield close to the fastest disk, displaying the bifurcation fromstationary to time-dependent dynamo when the frequenciesof the two disks are increased from 14.4/24 Hz F1+F2=38.4 Hz to 15/25 Hz F1+F2=40 Hz. After a short tran-sient state, the three components of the magnetic field un-dergo a transition to nearly periodic oscillations.However, it is hard to test the pertinence of the model 11from the time recording of the magnetic field at a singlepoint. Using measurements obtained from two probes 1 and2, symmetric with respect to the midplane, we compute thedipolar part, Dtdi= Bi1, t+Bi2, t /2 and the quadrupo-lar part, Qtqi= Bi1, tBi2, t /2. In order to obtain ob-servables which are independent of the spatial component i,each of these vectors is projected on its value at a given timet0. We thus extract Dt and Qt up to a multiplicative con-stant. In the measurements displayed here, the dipolar andquadrupolar components are projected on their stationaryvalues obtained at F1+F2=38.4 Hz. Note however that dif-ferent methods could be used to reconstruct these ampli-tudes. In particular, plotting the sum and the difference of agiven component does not change the qualitative behavior19. Figure 3bottom shows the evolution of Dt and Qtduring periodic oscillations of the magnetic field. We observethat when the dipole vanishes, the amplitude of the quadru-pole reaches its maximum. This shows that the field reversalsobserved in the VKS experiment do not correspond to a van-ishing magnetic field, but rather to a change of shape from adominant dipolar field to a quadrupolar one. Immediatelyafter each reversal, one can also note that during its recovery,the dipolar amplitude strongly overshoots its mean value.Therefore, in agreement with the model 11, reversals in theVKS experiment involve a strong competition between dipo-lar and quadrupolar components of the magnetic field.The decomposition between dipolar and quadrupolarcomponents is not only relevant to study these oscillationsbut is also useful to follow the bifurcations observed alongthe line F1 /F2=0.6 in Fig. 2. We now investigate the evolu-tion of the dynamics in the phase space D ,Q displayed inFig. 4 as F1+F2 is modified. The limit cycle described inFig. 3 bifurcates from a low amplitude stationary dynamowhen F1+F2 is increased from 38.4 to 40 Hz. This limitcycle is shown in green in Fig. 4a. When F1+F2 is de-creased again to 38.4 Hz, a smaller amplitude limit cycle isobtained orange curve, circles instead of a fixed point. Weneed to decrease the rotation frequencies further to recoverthe low amplitude stationary dynamo black dot. Therefore,this transition is hysteretic and within some frequency range8 10 12 14 16 18 20F1[Hz]182022242628F 2[Hz]Stationnary dynamooscillations or reversalsNo dynamoF1/F2=0.6FIG. 2. Color online Parameter space: cross no dynamo,circle stationary dynamos, star oscillatory or random reversingdynamos.CHRISTOPHE GISSINGER PHYSICAL REVIEW E 82, 056302 2010056302-2we have bistability involving stationary and time-periodicdynamos. This oscillation appears at finite amplitude and fi-nite period 14. The oscillation of Fig. 3 displays a slowingdown in the vicinity of two symmetric fixed points, as ex-pected for a system close to the saddle-node bifurcation ofAndronov type. Note however that the onset of the cyclewhen F1+F2 is increased, does not correspond to such asaddle-node bifurcation, since these two stagnation pointsare distinct from the low amplitude stationary dynamo re-gime obtained at F1+F2=38.4. In fact, this transition from alow amplitude stationary magnetic field to an oscillatory re-gime at finite period, rather corresponds to the model takenclose to its codimension-two bifurcation point 13.When F1+F2 is increased further, the amplitude of thelimit cycle continuously increases Fig. 4b. In addition, thesystem slows down in the vicinity of two points Ds , QsFig. 4c. Thus, the period of the limit cycle significantlyincreases. For F1+F2=44 Hz, the systems stops on one ofthese two fixed points and we get a stationary dynamo al-though we cannot rule out the occurrence of other reversalswith a longer experiment. As explained in the framework ofthe model 11, this second transition corresponds to asaddle-node bifurcation or more precisely an Andronov bi-furcation: the stable fixed points Ds , Qs collide withunstable fixed points Du , Qu when F1+F2 is decreasedand disappear. A limit cycle is thus created, and its period isexpected to diverge in the vicinity of the saddle-node bifur-cation. Turbulent fluctuations of course saturate this diver-gence by kicking the system away from the pointsDs , Qs where it slows down. They also stronglymodify the dynamics on the other side of the bifurcation.Indeed, when the stable and unstable fixed points are veryclose one to the other, turbulent fluctuations can randomlydrive the system from a stable fixed point to its neighboringunstable one, and thus trigger a reversal of the magneticfield. Therefore, random reversals are expected in the vicin-ity of the saddle-node bifurcation 11. This is what is ob-served here as shown below.Figure 5 displays the time recordings of the dipolar andquadrupolar components for F1+F2=42.4 Hz. We observethat both components fluctuate around constant values as ifthey have reached a stable fixed point. The time spent in bothpolarities is random but much longer than the magnetic dif-fusion time scale of order 1 s. One also clearly observesthat the amplitude of the dipole slowly decreases before rap-idly changing sign. In the phase space D ,Q displayed inFig. 4c, this slow decay corresponds to random motion inthe regions in the form of elongated spots located along thelimit cycle in the vicinity of the fixed points. Indeed, themotion from each stable fixed point to the neighboring un-stable one, occurs under the influence of fluctuations actingagainst the deterministic dynamics. It is thus a slow randomdrift compared to the fast reversal phase driven by the deter-ministic dynamics once the system has been pushed beyondthe unstable fixed point. Figure 4c also show that the spotsbecome more and more elongated when F1+F2 is increased.This tells that the distance between each stable fixed pointand its unstable neighbor increases. Correspondingly, rever-sals are less frequent. For F1+F2=44 Hz red light graycycle in Fig. 4c, fluctuations can hardly drive reversals. Asfor periodic oscillations obtained above the Andronov bifur-cation, the modal decomposition D ,Q underlines the short160 200 240Time [s]-150-100-50050100150Magneticfield[G]BRBBZ150 200 250 300Time [s]-505Magneticfield[arb.units]DipoleQuadrupoleFIG. 3. Color online Top: time recordings ofthe three components of the magnetic field. Therotation frequencies are increased from 14.4/24Hz to 15/25 Hz, leading to a transition from astationary low amplitude dynamo regime to alimit cycle. Bottom: behavior of the dipolar andquadrupolar parts of the magnetic field. Note thetransfer between the two components duringreversals.-5 0 5Dipole [arb. units]-6-4-20246Quadrupole[arb.units]F1+F2=37.6F1+F2=38.4F1+F2=40-5 0 5Dipole [arb. units]-10-50510Quadrupole[arb.units]F1+F2=41.8F1+F2=40.8F1+F2=40-5 0 5 10Dipole [arb. units]-50510Quadrupole[arb.units]F1+F2=42.4F1+F2=44(b) (c)(a)FIG. 4. Color online a Evolution of the magnetic field in the phase space D ,Q at low frequencies: there exists a range of bistabilityin which a stationary dynamo black dot and a periodic limit cycle orange circles are both metastable. b: Evolution of the limit cyclewhen F1+F2 is increased from 40 to 41.8 Hz. c Chaotic reversals obtained for large values of F1+F2 in the vicinity of a saddle-nodebifurcation.DIPOLE-QUADRUPOLE DYNAMICS DURING MAGNETIC PHYSICAL REVIEW E 82, 056302 2010056302-3transfer from an axial dipole to a quadrupolar magnetic fieldduring random reversals obtained below the bifurcationthreshold see inset of Fig. 5. The dipolar amplitude dis-plays the expected behavior, characterized by a slow decayfollowed by a rapid recovery, and showing a typical over-shoot after each reversal. Evolution in the phase space D ,Qalso illustrate how the transfer between dipolar and quadru-polar components yields very robust cycles, systematicallyavoiding the origin B=0.In conclusion, we have used a simple method to extractthe dipolar antisymmetric and quadrupolar symmetriccomponents of the magnetic field in the VKS experiment. Wehave shown that this decomposition allows to investigate themorphology of the magnetic field during reversals, and tocompare experimental results to the predictions of a recentmodel proposed in 11. We have shown that the results ofthe VKS experiment are in very good agreement with thesepredictions:i reversals are characterized by a strong transfer to thequadrupole when the dipole vanishes,ii the dipolar mode systematically displays an overshootafter each reversal,iii random reversals are asymmetric, i.e., involve twophases: a slow one triggered by turbulent fluctuations fol-lowed by a fast one mostly governed by the deterministicdynamics.This agreement between the VKS experiment and themodel has significant consequences. It first shows that a fluiddynamo, even generated by a strongly turbulent flow, canexhibit low dimensional dynamics, involving mostly dipolarand quadrupolar modes. Furthermore, because such a modelis based on symmetry arguments, the mechanisms describedhere are expected to apply beyond the VKS experiment. Forinstance, although three-dimensional simulations do not in-volve a similar level of turbulence, a transfer between dipoleand quadrupole during reversals has been observed in severalnumerical studies of the geodynamo 6,7. This is consistentwith indirect evidences from paleomagnetic measurements,suggesting a dipole-quadrupole interaction 4 and asymmet-ric reversals 18. Observations of the Suns magnetic fieldalso suggest a transfer between dipolar and higher compo-nents 16. In numerical simulations based on the VKS ex-periment 8, good agreement with the three predictions re-ported here has been obtained, but only when the magneticPrandtl number is sufficiently small. In this context, oursimple method could be used to investigate data from nu-merical simulations of the geodynamo at low magneticPrantl number. This opens new perspectives to understandthe dynamics of planetary and stellar magnetic fields with asimple and low dimensional description.I acknowledge my colleagues of the VKS team withwhom the experimental data used here have been obtained14 and ANR-08-BLAN-0039-02 for support. I also thankanonymous referees for very helpful comments.1 Mathematical Aspects of Natural Dynamos, edited by E.Dormy and A. M. Soward CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2007.2 P. Hoyng, M. A. J. H. Ossendrijver, and D. Schmitt, Geophys.Astrophys. Fluid Dyn. 94, 263 2001.3 F. Stefani and G. Gerbeth, Phys. Rev. Lett. 94, 184506 2005.4 P. L. McFadden et al., J. Geophys. Res. 96, 3923 1991.5 B. M. Clement, Nature London 428, 637 2004.6 G. A. Glatzmaier and P. H. Roberts, Nature London 377, 2031995.7 R. S. Coe and G. A. Glatzmaier, Geophys. Res. Lett. 33,L21311 2006.8 C. Gissinger, E. Dormy, and S. Fauve, EPL 90, 49001 2010.9 M. Berhanu et al., EPL 77, 59001 2007.10 F. Ravelet et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 074502 2008.11 F. Ptrlis and S. Fauve, J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 20, 4942032008.12 F. Ptrlis, S. Fauve, E. Dormy, and J. P. Valet, Phys. Rev. Lett.102, 144503 2009.13 M. Berhanu et al., J. Fluid Mech. 641, 217 2009.14 M. Berhanu et al., Eur. Phys. J. B to be published.15 C. J. P. Gissinger, EPL 87, 39002 2009.16 R. Knaack and J. O. Stenflo, Astron. Astrophys. 438, 3492005.17 B. Gallet and F. Petrelis, Phys. Rev. E 80, 035302 2009.18 J. P. Valet et al., Nature London 435, 802 2005.19 C. Gissinger, Ph.D. thesis, Pierre et Marie Curie University,2010.200 300 400 500 600 700Time [s]-10-50510Magneticfield[arb.units]DipoleQuadrupole220 225 230 235 240FIG. 5. Color online Time evolution of the magnetic field dur-ing a regime of chaotic reversals, for F1+F2=42.4 Hz. Inset: zoomon the reversal occurring at t=231 s.CHRISTOPHE GISSINGER PHYSICAL REVIEW E 82, 056302 2010056302-4http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03091920108203410http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03091920108203410http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.184506http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/90JB02275http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02459http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/377203a0http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/377203a0http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2006GL027903http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2006GL027903http://dx.doi.org/10.1209/0295-5075/90/49001http://dx.doi.org/10.1209/0295-5075/77/59001http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.074502http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0953-8984/20/49/494203http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0953-8984/20/49/494203http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.144503http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.144503http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022112009991996http://dx.doi.org/10.1209/0295-5075/87/39002http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20052765http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20052765http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.80.035302http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03674