The dynamical disconnection of sunspots from their magnetic roots
Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Max-Planck-Str. 2, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany e-mail: email@example.com
2 High Altitude Observatory, NCAR, PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA
Accepted: 13 June 2005
After a dynamically active emergence phase, magnetic flux at the solar surface soon ceases to show strong signs of the subsurface dynamics of its parent magnetic structure. This indicates that some kind of disconnection of the emerged flux from its roots in the deep convection zone should take place. We propose a mechanism for the dynamical disconnection of the surface flux based upon the buoyant upflow of plasma along the field lines. Such flows arise in the upper part of a rising flux loop during the final phases of its buoyant ascent towards the surface. The combination of the pressure buildup by the upflow and the cooling of the upper layers of an emerged flux tube by radiative losses at the surface lead to a progressive weakening of the magnetic field in several Mm depth. When the field strength has become sufficiently low, convective motions and the fluting instability disrupt the flux tube into thin, passively advected flux fragments, thus providing a dynamical disconnection of the emerged part from its roots. We substantiate this scenario by considering the quasi-static evolution of a sunspot model under the effects of radiative cooling, convective energy transport, and pressure buildup by a prescribed inflow at the bottom of the model. For inflow speeds in the range shown by simulations of thin flux tubes, we find that the disconnection takes place in a depth between 2 and 6 Mm for disconnection times up to 3 days.
Key words: magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / Sun: activity / Sun: magnetic fields / Sun: sunspots
© ESO, 2005