The Global Solar Magnetic Field Through a Full Sunspot Cycle: Observations and Model Results
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Based on 11 years of SOHO/MDI observations from the cycle minimum in 1997 to the next minimum around 2008, we compare observed and modeled axial dipole moments to better understand the large-scale transport properties of magnetic flux in the solar photosphere. The absolute value of the axial dipole moment in 2008 is less than half that in the corresponding cycle-minimum phase in early 1997, both as measured from synoptic maps and as computed from an assimilation model based only on magnetogram data equatorward of 60° in latitude. This is incompatible with the statistical fluctuations expected from flux-dispersal modeling developed in earlier work at the level of 7 – 10 σ. We show how this decreased axial dipole moment can result from an increased strength of the diverging meridional flow near the Equator, which more effectively separates the two hemispheres for dispersing magnetic flux. Based on the combination of this work with earlier long-term simulations of the solar surface field, we conclude that the flux-transport properties across the solar surface have changed from preceding cycles to the most recent one. A plausible candidate for such a change is an increase of the gradient of the meridional-flow pattern near the Equator so that the two hemispheres are more effectively separated. The required profile as a function of latitude is consistent with helioseismic and cross-correlation measurements made over the past decade.
KeywordsSolar Cycle Tilt Angle Solar Phys Solar Surface Sunspot Cycle
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