Supergranular-scale solar convection not explained by mixing-length theory

Christopher Hanson, Srijan Bharati Das, Prasad Mani, Shravan Hanasoge, Katepalli R. Sreenivasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Supergranules, which are solar flow features with a lateral scale of 30,000–40,000 km and a lifetime of ~24 h, form a prominent component of the Sun’s convective spectrum. However, their internal flows, which can be probed only by helioseismology, are not well understood. We analyse dopplergrams recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite to identify and characterize ~23,000 supergranules. We find that the vertical flows peak at a depth of ~10,000 km, and remain invariant over the full range of lateral supergranular scales, contrary to numerical predictions. We also infer that, within the local seismic resolution (≳5,000 km), downflows are ~40% weaker than upflows, indicating an apparent mass-flux imbalance. This may imply that the descending flows also comprise plumes, which maintain the mass balance but are simply too small to be detected by seismic waves. These results challenge the widely used mixing-length description of solar convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Astronomy
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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