Average surface flows before the formation of solar active regions and their relationship to the supergranulation pattern

A. C. Birch, H. Schunker, D. C. Braun, Laurent Gizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. The emergence of solar active regions is an important but poorly understood aspect of the solar dynamo. Aims. Knowledge of the flows associated with the rise of active-region-forming magnetic concentrations through the near-surface layers will help determine the mechanisms of active region formation. Methods. We used helioseismic holography and granulation tracking to measure the horizontal flows at the surface that precede the emergence of active regions. We then averaged these flows over about sixty emerging active regions to reduce the noise, selecting active regions that emerge into relatively quiet Sun. To help interpret the results, we constructed a simple model flow field by generating synthetic "emergence locations" that are probabilistically related to the locations of supergranulation-scale convergence regions in the quiet Sun. Results. The flow maps obtained from helioseismology and granulation tracking are very similar (correlation coefficients for single maps around 0.96). We find that active region emergence is, on average, preceded by converging horizontal flows of amplitude about 40 m s-1. The convergence region extends over about 40 Mm in the east-west direction and about 20 Mm in the north-south direction and is centered in the retrograde direction relative to the emergence location. This flow pattern is largely reproduced by a model in which active region emergence occurs preferentially in the prograde direction relative to supergranulation inflows. Conclusions. Averaging over many active regions reveals a statistically significant pattern of near-surface flows prior to emergence. The qualitative success of our simple model suggests that rising flux concentrations and supergranule-scale flows interact during the emergence process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA37
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Sun: Activity
  • Sun: Helioseismology
  • Sun: Magnetic fields
  • Sunspots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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