Dynamic localized turbulent diffusion and its impact on the galactic ecosystem

Douglas Rennehan, Arif Babul, Philip F. Hopkins, Romeel Dave, Belaid Moa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Modelling the turbulent diffusion of thermal energy, momentum, and metals is required in all galaxy evolution simulations due to the ubiquity of turbulence in galactic environments. The most commonly employed diffusion model, the Smagorinsky model, is known to be overdiffusive due to its strong dependence on the fluid velocity shear. We present a method for dynamically calculating a more accurate, locally appropriate, turbulent diffusivity: the dynamic localized Smagorinsky model. We investigate a set of standard astrophysically relevant hydrodynamical tests, and demonstrate that the dynamic model curbs overdiffusion in non-turbulent shear flows and improves the density contrast in our driven turbulence experiments. In galactic discs, we find that the dynamic model maintains the stability of the disc by preventing excessive angular momentum transport, and increases the metal-mixing time-scale in the interstellar medium. In both our isolated Milky Way-like galaxies and cosmological simulations, we find that the interstellar and circumgalactic media are particularly sensitive to the treatment of turbulent diffusion. We also examined the global gas enrichment fractions in our cosmological simulations, to gauge the potential effect on the formation sites and population statistics of Population III stars and supermassive black holes, since they are theorized to be sensitive to the metallicity of the gas out of which they form. The dynamic model is, however, not for galaxy evolution studies only. It can be applied to all astrophysical hydrodynamics simulations, including those modelling stellar interiors, planetary formation, and star formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3810-3831
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Diffusion
  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: intergalactic medium
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Methods: numerical
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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