Volume 645, January 2021
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||The Sun and the Heliosphere|
|Published online||07 January 2021|
Spatial–temporal evolution of photospheric weak-field shifts in solar cycles 21–24
Space Climate Research Group, Space Physics and Astronomy Research Unit, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
Accepted: 6 October 2020
Context. Weak magnetic field elements make a dominant contribution to the total magnetic field on the solar surface. Even so, little is known of their long-term occurrence.
Aims. We study the long-term spatial–temporal evolution of the weak-field shift and skewness of the distribution of photospheric magnetic field values during solar cycles 21−24 in order to clarify the role and relation of the weak field values to the overall magnetic field evolution.
Methods. We used Wilcox Solar Observatory (WSO) and the Synoptic Optical Long-term Investigations of the Sun Vector SpectroMagnetograph synoptic maps to calculate weak-field shifts for each latitude bin of each synoptic map, and thereby constructed a time–latitude butterfly diagram for shifts. We also calculated butterfly diagrams for skewness for all field values and for weak field values only.
Results. The weak-field shifts and (full-field) skewness depict a similar spatial–temporal solar cycle evolution to that of the large-scale surface magnetic field. The field distribution has a systematic non-zero weak-field shift and a large skewness already at (and after) the emergence of the active region, even at the highest resolution. We find evidence for coalescence of opposite-polarity fields during the surge evolution. This is clearly more effective at the supergranulation scale. However, a similar dependence of magnetic field coalescence on spatial resolution was not found in the unipolar regions around the poles.
Conclusions. Our results give evidence for the preference of even the weakest field elements toward the prevailing magnetic polarity since the emergence of an active region, and for a systematic coalescence of stronger magnetic fields of opposite polarities to produce weak fields during surge evolution and at the poles. We also find that the supergranulation process is reduced or turned off in the unipolar regions around the poles. These observations improve the understanding not only of the development of the weakest magnetic field elements, but also of the dynamics of magnetic fields at large, and even of processes below the solar surface.
Key words: Sun: magnetic fields
© ESO 2021
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