Dynamical Age of Solar Wind Turbulence in the Outer Heliosphere

William H. Matthaeus, Charles W. Smith and S. Oughton

Journal of Geophysical Research, A103, 6495-6502 (1998)


In an evolving turbulent medium, a natural timescale can be defined in terms of the energy decay time. The time evolution may be complicated by other effects such as energy supply due to driving, and spatial inhomogeneity. In the solar wind the turbulence appears not to be simply engaging in free decay, but rather the energy level observed at a particular position in the heliosphere is affected by expansion, ``mixing,'' and driving by stream shear. Here we discuss a new approach for estimating the ``age'' of solar wind turbulence as a function of heliocentric distance, using the local turbulent decay rate as the natural clock, but taking into account expansion and driving effects. We employ Voyager data to illustrate our method, which improves upon the familiar estimates in terms of local eddy turnover times.

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