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# Cowlings Theorem

Cowlings Theorem
Among the theorems of applied mathematics Cowlings theorem on the impossibility of axisymmetric homogeneous dynamos has played a special role because it has cast in doubt for 40 years the dynamo hypothesis of the origin of geomagnetism. This hypothesis goes back to Larmor (1919; see Larmor, J.) who argued that the magnetic eld of sunspots could be created by motions in an electrically conducting uid. He envisioned an axisymmetric model where radial motion into a cylindrical tube of magnetic ux would cause an electromotive force v B driving an electric current in the azimuthal direction which in turn would enhance the magnetic ux in the cylinder. While this model appears to be supercially convincing, Cowling was able to prove that such a dynamo process is not possible. The proof originally provided by Cowling (1934; see Cowling, T.G.) is quite simple since he was only concerned with the possibility of the steady generation of a eld conned to meridional planes as envisioned by Larmor. A general axisymmetric magnetic eld B satisfying the condition B = 0 can be described by B= A e + B e (1)

where e is the unit vector in the azimuthal direction and A is the -component of the magnetic vector potential A. Ohms law for an electrically conducting uid moving with the velocity eld v can be written in the form (2) B =vB U A t where the last two terms represent the electric eld and where the magnetic diusivity is the inverse of the product of magnetic permeability and electrical conductivity of the uid, = ( )1 . Since we are considering an axisymmetric steady process t A vanishes and U does not contribute to the -component of equation (2). The latter assumes the form 2 2 1 vr C + vz C = ( 2 C + 2 C C) (3) r z r z r r where a cylindrical coordinate system (r, , z) has been used and C(r, z) rA has been introduced after multiplication of the equation by r. The condition that the magnetic eld is generated locally requires that it decays towards innity at least like a dipolar eld, i.e. in proportion to (r2 + z 2 )3/2 . The function C(r, z) thus must decay at least like (r2 + z 2 )1/2 . Since, on the other hand, C vanishes on the axis, r = 0, it must assume at least one maximum or minimum at a point (r0 , z0 ) at which r C = z C = 0 can be assumed. Such a point in the meridional plane is sometimes called neutral line. 2 2 Because at a maximum or minimum usually r2 C + z2 C = 0 holds, a contradiction to 2 2 equation (3) is obtained. In the case of at maxima or minima where r2 C + z2 C may vanish a similar contradiction can be constructed, but this requires a more technical approach. It should be noted that the above argument does not require a solenoidal velocity eld, v = 0, as Cowling had originally assumed. For a generalization of Cowlings original theorem which emphasizes its topological nature see Bullard (1955;

Cowlings Theorem

see Bullard, E. C.). Backus and Chandrasekhar (1956) later rened Cowlings proof by eliminating the possibility of an axisymmetric dynamo with a nite component B . For geophysical and astrophysical applications it is important to consider the possibility of axisymmetric dynamos caused by varying magnetic diusivity or by time dependent processes. The former possibility was eliminated by Lortz (1968) while the latter problem motivated Braginsky (1964) to seek a new mathematical approach based on energy arguments. Braginsky also introduced the spatial conguration of a nite axisymmetric domain V of constant electrical conductivity surrounded by an insulating space outside. For his proof of the impossibility of time dependent axisymmetric dynamos he had however to assume a solenoidal velocity eld. For the domain V Hide (1979) introduced as a new denition for a dynamo that the magnetic ux intersecting the surface V of V remains nite as the time t tends to innity, |B d2 S| 0 f or
V

t .

(4)

Hide and Palmer (1982) tried to prove on this basis Cowlings theorem under rather general conditions. In view of their novel approach it is unfortunate that their proof turned out to be incomplete (Ivers and James, 1984; Nnez, 1996). The eorts of Lortz u and coworkers were thus required to arrive at mathematically rigorous conclusions about the impossibility of the generation of axisymmetric magnetic eld by time dependent and not necessarily solenoidal velocity elds. For references and details of the mathematical issues we refer to the reviews of Ivers and James (1984) and Nnez (1996). u Cowling (1955) had already realized that the ideas of the proof for the impossibility of an axisymmetric dynamo could easily be applied to prove the impossibility of twodimensional dynamos for which the magnetic eld depends only on two of the three coordinates of a cartesian system. Since the cartesian case is somewhat simpler to deal with many of the mathematical problems have rst been explored in this geometry. The 1955 Cowling paper is particularly important in its showing that because of the presence of non-Hermitian operators the apparently general kinematic dynamo formalism developed by Elsasser (1947 and earlier papers referred therein; see Elsasser, W.) does not guarantee real valued velocities. Cowling illustrates this by showing that the two-dimensional model yields purely imaginary velocities. It is of interest to note that dynamos with small deviations from axisymmetry can readily be realized. The theory of spherical dynamos developed by Braginsky (1976; see Dynamo, Braginsky) is based on a small perturbation of an axisymmetric conguration. A purely axisymmetric dynamo has been obtained by Lortz (1989) by allowing for a small anisotropy of the magnetic diusivity tensor. It thus appears that in spite of its early negative inuence Cowlings theorem has stimulated the understanding of dynamo action and the creation of ingenious solutions for the problem of magnetic eld generation. F. H. Busse

Cowlings Theorem

## Cross References Bullard, E. C. Cowling, T.G. Elsasser, W. Dynamo, Braginsky Larmor, J.

Bibliography Backus, G., and Chandrasekhar, S. (1956) On Cowlings theorem on the impossibility of self-maintained axisymmetric homogeneous dynamos Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 42, 105-109 Braginsky, S. I. (1964) Self-excitation of a magnetic eld during the motion of a highly conducting uid Soviet Phys. JETP 20, 726-735 Braginsky, S. I. (1976) On the nearly axially-symmetrical model of the hydromagnetic dynamo of the Earth Phys. Earth Plan. Inter. 11, 191-199 Bullard, E. (1955) A discussion on magneto-hydrodynamics: Introduction Proc. Roy. Soc. London A233, 289-296 Cowling, T. G. (1934) The magnetic eld of sunspots Monthly Not. Roy. astr. Soc. 34, 39-48 Cowling, T. G. (1955) Dynamo theories of cosmic magnetic elds Vistas Astr. 1, 313-323 Elsasser, W. M. (1947) Induction eects in terrestrial magnetism, Part III Electric modes Phys. Rev. 72, 821-833 Hide, R. (1979) On the magnetic ux linkage of an electrically-conducting uid Geophys. Astrophys. Fluid Dyn. 12, 171-176 Hide, R., and Palmer, T. N. (1982) Generalization of Cowlings theorem Geophys. Astrophys. Fluid Dyn. 19, 301-309 Ivers, D. J., and James, R. W. (1984) Axisymmetric antidynamo theorems in compressible non-uniform conducting uids Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London A312, 179-218 Larmor, J. (1919) How could a rotating body such as the sun become a magnet? Brit. Ass. Advan. Sci. Rep. 159-160 Lortz, D. (1968) Impossibility of steady dynamos with certain symmetries Phys. Fluids 10, 913-915 Lortz, D. (1989) Axisymmetric Dynamo Solutions Z. Naturforsch. 44a, 1041-1045 Nnez, M. (1996) The decay of axisymmetric magnetic elds: A review of Cowlings u theorem SIAM Review 38, 553-564