A solar dynamo model driven by mean-field alpha and Babcock-Leighton sources: fluctuations, grand-minima-maxima, and hemispheric asymmetry in sunspot cycles
1 CENTRA, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
2 Departamento de Física, Universidade de Évora, Colégio António Luis Verney, 7002-554 Évora, Portugal
3 GRPS, Départment de Physique, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Centre-ville, Montréal, Qc, H3C-3J7, Canada
4 Department of Physical Science, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, 741252 Mohanpur, West Bengal, India
5 Center of Excellence in Space Sciences India, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, 741252 Mohanpur, West Bengal, India
Received: 9 September 2013
Accepted: 31 December 2013
Context. Extreme solar activity fluctuations and the occurrence of solar grand minima and maxima episodes, such as the Maunder minimum and Medieval maximum are well-established, observed features of the solar cycle. Nevertheless, such extreme activity fluctuations and the dynamics of the solar cycle during Maunder minima-like episodes remain ill understood.
Aims. We explore the origin of such extreme solar activity fluctuations and the role of dual poloidal field sources, namely the Babcock-Leighton mechanism and the mean-field α effect in the dynamics of the solar cycle. We mainly concentrate on entry and recovery from grand minima episodes such as the Maunder minimum and the dynamics of the solar cycle, including the structure of solar butterfly diagrams during grand minima episodes.
Methods. We use a kinematic solar dynamo model with a novel set-up in which stochastic perturbations force two different poloidal sources. We explore different regimes of operation of these poloidal sources with distinct operating thresholds to identify the importance of each. The perturbations are implemented independently in both hemispheres which allows the study of the level of hemispheric coupling and hemispheric asymmetry in the emergence of sunspots.
Results. From the simulations performed we identify a few different ways in which the dynamo can enter a grand minima episode. While fluctuations in any of the α effects can trigger intermittency, in keeping with results from a mathematical time-delay model we find that the mean-field α effect is crucial for the recovery of the solar cycle from a grand minima episode, which a Babcock-Leighton source alone fails to achieve. Our simulations also demonstrate many types of hemispheric asymmetries, including grand minima and failed grand minima where only one hemisphere enters a quiescent state.
Conclusions. We conclude that stochastic fluctuations in two interacting poloidal field sources working with distinct operating thresholds is a viable candidate for triggering episodes of extreme solar activity and that the mean-field α effect capable of working on weak, sub-equipartition fields is critical to the recovery of the solar cycle following an extended solar minimum. Based on our results, we also postulate that solar activity can exhibit significant parity shifts and hemispheric asymmetry, including phases when only one hemisphere is completely quiescent while the other remains active, to, successful grand minima like conditions in both hemispheres.
Key words: Sun: activity / Sun: magnetic fields / Sun: evolution / sunspots / Sun: interior
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