A comparison of sparse and non-sparse techniques for electric-field inversion from normal-component magnetograms

Duncan Hendry Mackay*, Anthony Yeates

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An important element of 3D data-driven simulations of solar magnetic fields is the determination of the horizontal electric field at the solar photosphere.This electric field is used to drive the 3D simulation and inject energy and helicity into the solar corona. One outstanding problem is the localisation of the horizontal electric field such that it is consistent with Ohm’s law. Yeates (ApJ, 836, 131, 2017) put forward a new “sparse” technique for computing the horizontal electric field from normal component magnetograms that minimises the number of non-zero values. This aims to produce a better representation of Ohm’s law compared to previously used “non-sparse” techniques. To test this new approach we apply it to active region (AR) 10977, along with the previously developed non-sparse technique of Mackay, Green and van Ballegooi-jen (ApJ, 729, 97, 2011). A detailed comparison of the two techniques with coronal observations is used to determine which is the most successful. Results show that the non-sparse technique of Mackay, Green, and van Ballegooijen (2011) produces the best representation for the formation and structure of the sigmoid above AR 10977. In contrast, the Yeates (2017) approach injects strong horizontal fields between spatially separated, evolving magnetic polarities. This injection produces highly twisted unphysical field lines with significantly higher magnetic energy and helicity. It is also demonstrated that the Yeates (2017) approach produces significantly different results that can be inconsistent with the observations depending on whether the horizontal electric field is solved for directly or indirectly through the magnetic vector potential. In contrast, the Mackay, Green, and van Ballegooijen (2011) method produces consistent results using either approach. The sparse technique of Yeates (2017) has significant pitfalls when applied to spatially resolved solar data, where future studies need
to investigate why these problems arise.
Original languageEnglish
Article number178
Number of pages29
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2021


  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: magnetic fields
  • Sun: modelling


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