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Keywords:

  • accretion, accretion discs;
  • magnetic fields;
  • MHD;
  • ISM: jets and outflows;
  • galaxies: jets

ABSTRACT

Standard models of accretion discs study the transport of mass on a viscous time-scale but do not consider the transport of magnetic flux. The evolution of a large-scale poloidal magnetic field is, however, an important problem because of its role in the launching of jets and winds and in determining the intensity of turbulence. As a consequence, the transport of poloidal magnetic flux should be considered on an equal basis to the transport of mass. In this paper, we develop a formalism to study such a transport of mass and magnetic flux in a thin accretion disc. The governing equations are derived by performing an asymptotic expansion in the limit of a thin disc, in the regime where the magnetic field is dominated by its vertical component. Turbulent viscosity and resistivity are included, with an arbitrary vertical profile that can be adjusted to mimic the vertical structure of the turbulence. At a given radius and time, the rates of transport of mass and magnetic flux are determined by a one-dimensional problem in the vertical direction, in which the radial gradients of various quantities appear as source terms. We solve this problem to obtain the transport rates and the vertical structure of the disc. This paper is then restricted to the idealized case of uniform diffusion coefficients, while a companion paper will study more realistic vertical profiles of these coefficients. We show the advection of weak magnetic fields to be significantly faster than the advection of mass, contrary to what a crude vertical averaging might suggest. This results from the larger radial velocities away from the mid-plane, which barely affect the mass accretion owing to the low density in these regions but do affect the advection of magnetic flux. Possible consequences of this larger accretion velocity include a potentially interesting time dependence with the magnetic flux distribution evolving faster than the mass distribution. If the disc is not too thin, this fast advection may also partially solve the long-standing problem of too efficient diffusion of an inclined magnetic field.