The -quenching expression (23) used in the preceding section amounts to saying that dynamo action saturates once the mean, dynamo-generated field reaches an energy density comparable to that of the driving turbulent fluid motions, i.e., , where is the turbulent velocity amplitude. This appears eminently sensible, since from that point on a toroidal fieldline would have sufficient tension to resist deformation by cyclonic turbulence, and so could no longer feed the -effect. At the base of the solar convective envelope, one finds , for , according to standard mixing length theory of convection. However, various calculations and numerical simulations have indicated that long before the mean field reaches this strength, the helical turbulence reaches equipartition with the small-scale, turbulent component of the magnetic field (e.g., Cattaneo and Hughes, 1996, and references therein). Such calculations also indicate that the ratio between the small-scale and mean magnetic components should itself scale as , where is a magnetic Reynolds number based on the microscopic magnetic diffusivity. This then leads to the alternate quenching expression

known in the literature as strong -quenching or catastrophic quenching. Since Rm 10A way out of this difficulty was proposed by Parker (1993), in the form of interface dynamos. The idea is beautifully simple: If the toroidal field quenches the -effect, amplify and store the toroidal field away from where the -effect is operating! Parker showed that in a situation where a radial shear and -effect are segregated on either side of a discontinuity in magnetic diffusivity (taken to coincide with the core-envelope interface), the dynamo equations support solutions in the form of travelling surface waves localized on the discontinuity in diffusivity. The key aspect of Parker’s solution is that for supercritical dynamo waves, the ratio of peak toroidal field strength on either side of the discontinuity surface is found to scale with the diffusivity ratio as

where the subscript “1” refers to the low- region below the core-envelope interface, and “2” to the high- region above. If one assumes that the envelope diffusivity is of turbulent origin then , so that the toroidal field strength ratio then scales as . This is precisely the factor needed to bypass strong -quenching (Charbonneau and MacGregor, 1996). Somewhat more realistic variations on Parker’s basic model were later elaborated (MacGregor and Charbonneau, 1997 and Zhang et al., 2004), and, while differing in important details, nonetheless confirmed Parker’s overall picture.Tobias (1996a) discusses in detail a related Cartesian model bounded in both horizontal and vertical direction, but with constant magnetic diffusivity throughout the domain. Like Parker’s original interface configuration, his model includes an -effect residing in the upper half of the domain, with a purely radial shear in the bottom half. The introduction of diffusivity quenching then reduces the diffusivity in the shear region, “naturally” turning the model into a bona fide interface dynamo, supporting once again oscillatory solutions in the form of dynamo waves travelling in the “latitudinal” x-direction. This basic model was later generalized by various authors (Tobias, 1997; Phillips et al., 2002) to include the nonlinear backreaction of the dynamo-generated magnetic field on the differential rotation; further discussion of such nonlinear models is deferred to Section 5.3.1.

The next obvious step is to construct an interface dynamo in spherical geometry, using a solar-like
differential rotation profile. This was undertaken by Charbonneau and MacGregor (1997). Unfortunately,
the numerical technique used to handle the discontinuous variation in at the core-envelope
interface turned out to be physically erroneous for the vector potential describing the poloidal
field^{7}
(see Markiel and Thomas, 1999, for a discussion of this point), which led to spurious dynamo action in some
parameter regimes. The matching problem is best avoided by using a continuous but rapidly varying
diffusivity profile at the core-envelope interface, with the -effect concentrated at the base of the
envelope, and the radial shear immediately below, but without significant overlap between these two source
regions (see Panel B of Figure 9). Such numerical models can be constructed as a variation on the
models considered earlier.

In spherical geometry, and especially in conjunction with a solar-like differential rotation profile, making
a working interface dynamo model is markedly trickier than if only a radial shear is operating, as in the
Cartesian models discussed earlier (see Charbonneau and MacGregor, 1997; Markiel and Thomas,
1999; Zhang et al., 2003a). Panel A of Figure 9 shows a butterfly diagram for a numerical
interface solution with , , and a core-to-envelope diffusivity contrast
. The poleward propagating equatorial branch is precisely what one would expect from the
combination of positive radial shear and positive -effect according to the Parker–Yoshimura sign
rule^{8}.
Here the -effect is (artificially) concentrated towards the equator, by imposing a latitudinal dependency
for , and zero otherwise.

The model does achieve the kind of toroidal field amplification one would like to see in interface dynamos. This can be seen in Panel B of Figure 9, which shows radial cuts of the toroidal field taken at latitude , and spanning half a cycle. Notice how the toroidal field peaks below the core-envelope interface (vertical dotted line), well below the -effect region and near the peak in radial shear. Panel C of Figure 9 shows how the ratio of peak toroidal field below and above varies with the imposed diffusivity contrast . The dashed line is the dependency expected from Equation (32). For relatively low diffusivity contrast, , both the toroidal field ratio and dynamo period increase as . Below , the -ratio increases more slowly, and the cycle period falls, contrary to expectations for interface dynamos (see, e.g., MacGregor and Charbonneau, 1997). This is basically an electromagnetic skin-depth effect; the cycle period is such that the poloidal field cannot diffuse as deep as the peak in radial shear in the course of a half cycle. The dynamo then runs on a weaker shear, thus yielding a smaller field strength ratio and weaker overall cycle; on the energetics of interface dynamos (see Ossendrijver and Hoyng, 1997, also Steiner and Ferriz-Mas, 2005).

So far the great success of interface dynamos remains their ability to evade -quenching even in its “strong” formulation, and so produce equipartition or perhaps even super-equipartition mean toroidal magnetic fields immediately beneath the core-envelope interface. They represent the only variety of dynamo models formally based on mean-field electrodynamics that can achieve this without additional physical effects introduced into the model. All of the uncertainties regarding the calculations of the -effect and magnetic diffusivity carry over from to interface models, with diffusivity quenching becoming a particularly sensitive issue in the latter class of models (see, e.g., Tobias, 1996a).

Interface dynamos suffer acutely from something that is sometimes termed “structural fragility”. Many gross aspects of the model’s dynamo behavior often end up depending sensitively on what one would normally hope to be minor details of the model’s formulation. For example, the interface solutions of Figure 9 are found to behave very differently if the -effect region is displaced slightly upwards, or assumes other latitudinal dependencies. Moreover, as exemplified by the calculations of Mason et al. (2008), this sensitivity carries over to models in which the coupling between the two source regions is achieved by transport mechanisms other than diffusion. This sensitivity is exacerbated when a latitudinal shear is present in the differential rotation profile; compare, e.g., the behavior of the solutions discussed here to those discussed in Markiel and Thomas (1999). Often in such cases, a mid-latitude dynamo mode, powered by the latitudinal shear within the tachocline and envelope, interferes with and/or overpowers the interface mode (see also Dikpati et al., 2005).

Because of this structural sensitivity, interface dynamo solutions also end up being annoyingly sensitive to choice of time-step size, spatial resolution, and other purely numerical details. From a modelling point of view, interface dynamos lack robustness.

Living Rev. Solar Phys. 7, (2010), 3
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