Precessing spherical shells: flows, dissipation, dynamo and the lunar core

Abstract : Precession of planets or moons affects internal liquid layers by driving flows, instabilities and possibly dynamos. The energy dissipated by these phenomena can influence orbital parameters such as the planet's spin rate. However, there is no systematic study of these flows in the spherical shell geometry relevant for planets, and the lack of scaling law prevents convincing extrapolation to celestial bodies. We have run more than 900 simulations of fluid spherical shells affected by precession, to systematically study basic flows, instabilities, turbulence, and magnetic field generation. We observe no significant effects of the inner core on the onset of the instabilities. We obtain an analytical estimate of the viscous dissipation, mostly due to boundary layer friction in our simulations. We propose theoretical onsets for hydrodynamic instabilities, and document the intensity of turbulent fluctuations. We extend previous precession dynamo studies towards lower viscosities, at the limits of today's computers. In the low viscosity regime, precession dynamos rely on the presence of large-scale vortices, and the surface magnetic fields are dominated by small scales. Interestingly, intermittent and self-killing dynamos are observed. Our results suggest that large-scale planetary magnetic fields are unlikely to be produced by a precession-driven dynamo in a spherical core. But this question remains open as planetary cores are not exactly spherical, and thus the coupling between the fluid and the boundary does not vanish in the relevant limit of small viscosity. Moreover, the fully turbulent dissipation regime has not yet been reached in simulations. Our results suggest that the melted lunar core has been in a turbulent state throughout its history. Furthermore, in the view of recent experimental results, we propose updated formulas predicting the fluid mean rotation vector and the associated dissipation in both the laminar and the turbulent regimes.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-01874075
Contributor : Nathanaël Schaeffer <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 12:26:26 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 5, 2019 - 8:22:23 PM

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David Cébron, Raphaël Laguerre, Jerome Noir, Nathanaël Schaeffer. Precessing spherical shells: flows, dissipation, dynamo and the lunar core. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019, ⟨10.1093/gji/ggz037⟩. ⟨insu-01874075v2⟩

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