Solar Physics

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 3–34 | Cite as

Heat flow near obstacles in the solar convection zone

  • H. C. Spruit


Disturbances in the heat flow in the solar convection zone are calculated with a turbulent thermal diffusion coefficient based on a mixing length approximation. As a consequence of the radiative boundary condition at the surface and the strong increase of the diffusion coefficient with depth, the convection zone resembles a thermally superconducting shell enclosed between a thin surface layer and an interior core of low thermal conductivity. Thermal disturbances originating in the convection zone do not penetrate into the interior, and penetrate only weakly through the solar surface. A thermally isolating obstacle buried entirely in the convection zone casts a ‘shadow’ of reduced temperature at the solar surface; the brightening surrounding this shadow is undetectable. The shadow is weak unless the object is located close to the surface (less than 2000 km). Assuming a sunspot to be an area of reduced thermal conductivity which extends a finite depth into the convection zone, the heat flow around this obstacle is calculated. The heat flux blocked below the spot (‘missing flux’) spreads over a very extended area surrounding the spot. The brightening corresponding to this ‘missing flux’ is undetectable if the reduction of the thermal conductivity extends to a depth greater than 1000 km. It is concluded that no effect other than a decrease of the convective efficiency is needed to explain the temperature change observed at the solar surface in and around a sunspot. The energy balance is calculated between magnetic flux tubes, oriented vertically in the solar surface, (magnetic elements in active regions and the quiet network) and their surroundings. Near the visible surface radiation enters the tube laterally from the surrounding convection zone. The heating effect of this influx is important for small tubes (less than a few arcseconds). Due to this influx tubes less than about 1″ in diameter can appear as bright structures irrespective of the amount of heat conveyed along the tube itself. Through the lateral influx, small tubes such as are found in the quiet network act as little ‘leaks’ in the solar surface through which an excess heat flux escapes from the convection zone.


Heat Flux Heat Flow Flux Tube Convection Zone Solar Surface 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. C. Spruit
    • 1
  1. 1.The Astronomical Institute at UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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