In Situ Signatures of Interchange Reconnection between Magnetic Clouds and Open Magnetic Fields: A Mechanism for the Erosion of Polar Coronal Holes?
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We outline a method to determine the direction of solar open flux transport that results from the opening of magnetic clouds (MCs) by interchange reconnection at the Sun based solely on in-situ observations. This method uses established findings about i) the locations and magnetic polarities of emerging MC footpoints, ii) the hemispheric dependence of the helicity of MCs, and iii) the occurrence of interchange reconnection at the Sun being signaled by uni-directional suprathermal electrons inside MCs. Combining those observational facts in a statistical analysis of MCs during solar cycle 23 (period 1995 – 2007), we show that the time of disappearance of the northern polar coronal hole (1998 – 1999), permeated by an outward-pointing magnetic field, is associated with a peak in the number of MCs originating from the northern hemisphere and connected to the Sun by outward-pointing magnetic field lines. A similar peak is observed in the number of MCs originating from the southern hemisphere and connected to the Sun by inward-pointing magnetic field lines. This pattern is interpreted as the result of interchange reconnection occurring between MCs and the open field lines of nearby polar coronal holes. This reconnection process closes down polar coronal hole open field lines and transports these open field lines equatorward, thus contributing to the global coronal magnetic field reversal process. These results will be further constrainable with the rising phase of solar cycle 24.
KeywordsCoronal mass ejection Heliospheric topology Solar cycle Solar wind suprathermal electrons
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