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Rossby wave instability at dead zone boundaries in three-dimensional resistive magnetohydrodynamical global models of protoplanetary disks
It has been suggested that the transition between magnetorotationally active and dead zones in protoplanetary disks should be prone to the excitation of vortices via Rossby wave instability (RWI). However, the only numerical evidence for this has come from alpha disk models, where the magnetic field evolution is not followed, and the effect of turbulence is parameterized by Laplacian viscosity.We aim to establish the phenomenology of the flow in the transition in three-dimensional resistive-magnetohydrodynamical models. We model the transition by a sharp jump in resistivity, as expected in the inner dead zone boundary, using the Pencil Code to simulate the flow. We find that vortices are readily excited in the dead side of the transition. We measure the mass accretion rate finding similar levels of Reynolds stress at the dead and active zones, at the a ~= 10^-2 level. The vortex sits in a pressure maximum and does not migrate, surviving until the end of the simulation. A pressure maximum in the active zone also triggers the RWI. The magnetized vortex that results should be disrupted by parasitical magneto-elliptic instabilities, yet it subsists in high resolution. This suggests that either the parasitic modes are still numerically damped or that the RWI supplies vorticity faster than they can destroy it. We conclude that the resistive transition between the active and dead zones in the inner regions of protoplanetary disks, if sharp enough, can indeed excite vortices via RWI. Our results lend credence to previous works that relied on the alpha-disk approximation, and caution against the use of overly reduced azimuthal coverage on modeling this transition.