Surface and interior meridional circulation in the Sun

Shravan M. Hanasoge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Solar meridional circulation is an axisymmetric flow system, extending from the equator to the poles (∼ 20 m/s at the surface, ≈ 1% of the mean solar rotation rate), plunging inwards and subsequently completing the circuit in the interior through an equatorward return flow and a radially outward flow back up to the surface. This article reviews the profound role that meridional circulation plays in maintaining global dynamics and regulating large-scale solar magnetism. Because it is relatively weak in comparison to differential rotation (∼ 300 m/s, ≈ 7% of the mean solar rotation rate) and owing to numerous systematical errors, accurate surface measurements were only first made in 1978 and initial inferences of interior meridional circulation were obtained using helioseismology two decades later. However, systematical biases have made it very challenging to reliably recover flow in the deep interior. Despite numerous advances that have served to improve the accuracy of inferences, the location of the return flow and the full extent of the circulation are still open problems. This article follows the historical developments and summarises contemporary advances that have led to modern inferences of surface and interior meridional flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalLiving Reviews in Solar Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Solar interior
  • Solar meridional circulation
  • Solar surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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