Interactions between two magnetohydrodynamic Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities

S. H. Lai, W. H. Ip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) driven by velocity shear is a generator of waves found away from the vicinity of the velocity-shear layers since the fast-mode waves radiated from the surface perturbation can propagate away from the transition layer. Thus the nonlinear evolution associated with KHI is not confined near the velocity-shear layer. To understand the physical processes in multiple velocity-shear layers, the interactions between two KHIs at a pair of tangential discontinuities are studied by two-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations. It is shown that the interactions between two neighboring velocity-shear layers are dominated by the propagation of the fast-mode waves radiated from KHIs in a nonuniform medium. That is, the fast-mode Mach number of the surface waves MFy, a key factor of the nonlinear evolution of KHI, will vary with the nonuniform background plasma velocity due to the existence of two neighboring velocity-shear layers. As long as the M Fy observed in the plasma rest frame across the neighboring velocity-shear layer is larger than one, newly formed fast-mode Mach-cone-like (MCL) plane waves generated by the fast-mode waves can be found in this region. As results of the interactions of two KHIs, reflection and distortion of the MCL plane waves generate the turbulence and increase the plasma temperature, which provide possible mechanisms of heating and accelerating local plasma between two neighboring velocity-shear layers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number046413
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 31 Oct 2011


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