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Subcritical turbulence spreading and avalanche birth

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In confined plasmas, a localized fluctuation in a marginal or weakly damped region will propagate and generate an avalanche if it exceeds a threshold. In this letter, a new model for turbulence spreading based on subcritical instability in the turbulence intensity is introduced. We derive a quantitative threshold for spreading from a seed in a stable region, based on a competition between diffusion and nonlinear growth of the turbulence intensity. The model resolves issues with the established Fisher equation model for turbulence spreading, which is supercritical and cannot support the stationary coexistence of multiple turbulence levels. Implications for turbulence spreading are discussed, including the dynamics of ballistic penetration of turbulence into the stable zone. Tests of the theory are suggested.

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