On the relationship between coronal heating, magnetic flux, and the density of the solar wind

Pete Riley, Z. Mikic, R. Lionello, J. A. Linker, N. A. Schwadron, D. J. McComas

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14 Scopus citations


The stark differences between the current solar minimum and the previous one offer a unique opportunity to develop new constraints on mechanisms for heating and acceleration of the solar wind. We have used a combination of numerical simulations and analysis of remote solar and in situ observations to infer that the coronal heating rate, H, scales with the average magnetic field strength within a coronal hole, Bch. This was accomplished in three steps. First, we analyzed Ulysses measurements made during its first and third orbit southern and northern polar passes (i.e., during near-solar minimum conditions) to deduce a linear relationship between proton number density (np) and radial magnetic field strength (Br) in the high-speed quiescent solar wind, consistent with the results of McComas et al. (2008) and Ebert et al. (2009). Second, we used Wilcox Solar Observatory measurements of the photospheric magnetic field to show that the magnetic field strength within coronal holes (Bch) is approximately correlated with the strength of the interplanetary field at the location of Ulysses. Third, we used hydrodynamic simulations to show that np in the solar wind scales linearly withH. Taken together, these results imply the chain:H ∞ np ∞ Br ∞ Bch. We also explored ideas that the correlation between np and Br could have resulted from interplanetary processes, or from the superradial expansion of the coronal magnetic field close to the Sun, but find that neither possibility can produce the observed relationship. The derived heating relationship is consistent with (1) empirical heating laws derived for closed-field line regions and (2) theoretical models aimed at understanding both the heating and acceleration of the solar wind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA06104
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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