Bistability of a forced hydromagnetic cavity

Luigi Nocera, Eric R. Priest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the nonlinear stability of a one-dimensional hydromagnetic cavity into which Alfvén waves are fed by harmonic shear motions of its boundaries and where they interact with slow magnetosonic waves. We use characteristic conditions for the outgoing and ingoing Alfven waves at the boundaries where the magnetosonic oscillations are required to vanish. Forcing of Alfven waves takes place at a frequency close to the eigenfrequency of the lowest-order mode of the cavity. We let the frequency detuning δω vary as a free parameter together with the amplitude of the forcing, the plasma β and the compressive Reynolds number Re0. Given these last three parameters and varying δω, we calculate the amplitude of the nonlinear equilibrium state of the cavity as the stationary solution of a simple forced, dissipative dynamical system that governs the evolution of the cavity over a slow time scale and to which we are led by multiple-scale and Galerkin analyses of the one-dimensional MHD equations. This amplitude is a multi-valued function of δω (bistability), and we discuss the possibility of nonlinear stabilization of the Alfvén wave by locking it in one of the bistable states. This amplitude undergoes saddle-node bifurcations: we calculate the two values of δω at which this occurs and the lowest value of the Reynolds number (27/2) for this to happen. We show that the magnetic energy density released during a bistable transition scales as (Re0)2; it has a maximum at β = 1 − (2/3)1/2 and it may amount to a substantial part of the energy originally stored in the unperturbed cavity. The magnetic power density released scales as (Re0)3 and has a maximum at β = 1 ± (1/3)1/2. We conclude that the cavity is a good site for plasma heating such as that of the solar corona.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-177
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Plasma Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1991


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