In cylindrical geometry, the tearing mode dispersion relation takes the form
for . [See Equation (3.74).] Here, is the tearing stability index at the th rational surface [20]. A comparison between the previous two equations reveals that the main difference between the tearing mode dispersion relation in toroidal geometry, and that in cylindrical geometry, is the presence of nonzero offdiagonal elements of the Ematrix in the former case. These offdiagonal elements couple different poloidal harmonics.The nonzero offdiagonal elements of the Ematrix are a consequence of nonzero offdiagonal elements of the Fmatrix. (If the Fmatrix were diagonal then the Ematrix would also be diagonal). The offdiagonal elements of the Fmatrix are determined by double integrals of the form (14.113) in which the normalized mutual inductances of current sheets flowing parallel to the local equilibrium magnetic field at different rational magnetic fluxsurfaces are calculated. For the case of a cylindrical plasma, the rational surfaces are concentric cylindrical surfaces of circular crosssection, and the current sheets have different poloidal periods. Consequently, the mutual inductance integrals all average to zero. The same is not true, in general, in a toroidal plasma, for two reasons. First, in a toroidal plasma, the different rational magnetic fluxsurfaces are not concentric, as a consequence of toroidicity and pressure gradients [19,34]. (See Figure 14.1.) This effect, which is known as the Shafranov shift [34], gives rise to a coupling between poloidal harmonics whose poloidal mode numbers differ by unity [5,14]. Second, in a realistic tokamak plasma, the rational magnetic fluxsurfaces do not have circular crosssections. Instead, they are highly elongated in the vertical direction, and slightly triangular. (See Figure 14.1.) These shaping effects give rise to coupling between poloidal harmonics whose poloidal mode numbers differ by two and three, respectively [14]. Of course, there is no coupling between toroidal harmonics with different toroidal mode numbers because the rational magnetic fluxsurfaces are all axisymmetric. This accounts for the fact that a general toroidal tearing mode possesses a unique toroidal mode number, but does not possess a unique poloidal mode number.
Suppose that a toroidal tearing mode reconnects an amount of magnetic flux, , at the th rational surface, and generates a current sheet of normalized strength, at the same surface. What is the response of the other rational surfaces in the plasma? In fact, the response at the th rational surface (where ) can fall between two extremes. Either the response can be such that a current sheet is induced at the th rational surface that completely suppresses driven magnetic reconnection at the surface (i.e., ), or the response can be such that no current sheet is induced at the th rational surface (i.e., ), and the maximum amount of reconnection is driven at the surface. We shall refer to the first type of response as full shielding, and to the second type as a no shielding.
Suppose that the response at all of the other rational surfaces in the plasma is of the full shielding type: that is, . It follows from Equation (14.119) that [14]
(14.121) 

Suppose that the response at all of the other rational surfaces in the plasma is of the no shielding type: that is, . It follows from Equation (14.118) that [14]
(14.122) 
The question that we now need to address is which of the two extreme response regimes just outlined most accurately describes a tearing mode in a realistic tokamak plasma. In order to determine the answer to this question, let us examine an example tokamak discharge.