Volume 4 (2009) Pages 030
We present a statistical theory of intermittency in plasma turbulence based on short-lived coherent structures (instantons). In general, the probability density functions (PDFs) of the flux R are shown to have an exponential scaling P(R) ∝ exp (-cRs ) in the tails. In ion-temperature-gradient turbulence, the exponent takes the value s = 3/2 for momentum flux and s = 3 for zonal flow formation. The value of s follows from the order of the highest nonlinear interaction term and the moments for which the PDFs are computed. The constant c depends on the spatial profile of the coherent structure and other physical parameters in the model. Our theory provides a powerful mechanism for ubiquitous exponential scalings of PDFs, often observed in various tokamaks. Implications of the results, in particular, on structure formation are further discussed.