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Linear and non-linear evolution of the vertical shear instability in accretion discs (vol 435, pg 2610, 2013)
239 - 239
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We analyse the stability and non-linear dynamics of power-law accretion disc models. These have mid-plane densities that follow radial power laws and have either temperature or entropy distributions that are strict power-law functions of cylindrical radius, R. We employ two different hydrodynamic codes to perform high-resolution 2D axisymmetric and 3D simulations that examine the long-term evolution of the disc models as a function of the power-law indices of the temperature or entropy, the disc scaleheight, the thermal relaxation time of the fluid and the disc viscosity. We present an accompanying stability analysis of the problem, based on asymptotic methods, that we use to guide our interpretation of the simulation results. We find that axisymmetric disc models whose temperature or entropy profiles cause the equilibrium angular velocity to vary with height are unstable to the growth of perturbations whose most obvious character is modes with horizontal and vertical wavenumbers that satisfy |kR/kZ| 1. Instability occurs only when the thermodynamic response of the fluid is isothermal, or the thermal evolution time is comparable to or shorter than the local dynamical time-scale. These discs appear to exhibit the Goldreich–Schubert–Fricke or ‘vertical shear’ linear instability. Closer inspection of the simulation results uncovers the growth of two distinct modes. The first are characterized by very short radial wavelength perturbations that grow rapidly at high latitudes in the disc, and descend down towards the mid-plane on longer time-scales. We refer to these as ‘finger modes’ because they display kR/kZ 1. The second appear at slightly later times in the main body of the disc, including near the mid-plane. These ‘body modes’ have somewhat longer radial wavelengths. Early on they manifest themselves as fundamental breathing modes, but quickly become corrugation modes as symmetry about the mid-plane is broken. The corrugation modes are a prominent feature of the non-linear saturated state, leading to strong vertical oscillation of the disc mid-plane. In a viscous disc with aspect ratio H/r = 0.05, instability is found to operate when the viscosity parameter α < 4×10−4. In three dimensions the instability generates a quasi-turbulent flow, and the associated Reynolds stress produces a fluctuating effective viscosity coefficient whose mean value reaches α ∼ 10−3 by the end of the simulation. The evolution and saturation of the vertical shear instability in astrophysical disc models which include realistic treatments of the thermal physics has yet to be examined. Should it occur on either global or local scales, however, our results suggest that it will have significant consequences for their internal dynamics, transport properties and observational appearance.