Zonally dominated dynamics and Dimits threshold in curvature-driven ITG turbulence
J. Plasma Phys. 86 (2020) 855860502
The saturated state of turbulence driven by the ion-temperature-gradient instability is investigated using a two-dimensional long-wavelength fluid model that describes the perturbed electrostatic potential and perturbed ion temperature in a magnetic field with constant curvature (a Z-pinch) and an equilibrium temperature gradient. Numerical simulations reveal a well-defined transition between a finite-amplitude saturated state dominated by strong zonal-flow and zonal temperature perturbations, and a blow-up state that fails to saturate on a box-independent scale. We argue that this transition is equivalent to the Dimits transition from a low-transport to a high-transport state seen in gyrokinetic numerical simulations (Dimits et al., Phys. Plasmas, vol. 7, 2000, 969). A quasi-static staircase-like structure of the temperature gradient intertwined with zonal flows, which have patch-wise constant shear, emerges near the Dimits threshold. The turbulent heat flux in the low-collisionality near-marginal state is dominated by turbulent bursts, triggered by coherent long-lived structures closely resembling those found in gyrokinetic simulations with imposed equilibrium flow shear (van Wyk et al., J. Plasma Phys., vol. 82, 2016, 905820609). The breakup of the low-transport Dimits regime is linked to a competition between the two different sources of poloidal momentum in the system – the Reynolds stress and the advection of the diamagnetic flow by the E×B flow. By analysing the linear ion-temperature-gradient modes, we obtain a semi-analytic model for the Dimits threshold at large collisionality.