Weakest solar wind of the space age and the current "mini" solar maximum

D. J. McComas, N. Angold, H. A. Elliott, G. Livadiotis, N. A. Schwadron, R. M. Skoug, C. W. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

109 Scopus citations

Abstract

The last solar minimum, which extended into 2009, was especially deep and prolonged. Since then, sunspot activity has gone through a very small peak while the heliospheric current sheet achieved large tilt angles similar to prior solar maxima. The solar wind fluid properties and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) have declined through the prolonged solar minimum and continued to be low through the current mini solar maximum. Compared to values typically observed from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s, the following proton parameters are lower on average from 2009 through day 79 of 2013: solar wind speed and beta (∼11%), temperature (∼40%), thermal pressure (∼55%), mass flux (∼34%), momentum flux or dynamic pressure (∼41%), energy flux (∼48%), IMF magnitude (∼31%), and radial component of the IMF (∼38%). These results have important implications for the solar wind's interaction with planetary magnetospheres and the heliosphere's interaction with the local interstellar medium, with the proton dynamic pressure remaining near the lowest values observed in the space age: ∼1.4 nPa, compared to ∼2.4 nPa typically observed from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. The combination of lower magnetic flux emergence from the Sun (carried out in the solar wind as the IMF) and associated low power in the solar wind points to the causal relationship between them. Our results indicate that the low solar wind output is driven by an internal trend in the Sun that is longer than the ∼11 yr solar cycle, and they suggest that this current weak solar maximum is driven by the same trend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume779
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 10 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • dynamo
  • solar wind
  • sunspots

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