Sunspot rotation: II. Effects of varying the field strength and twist of an emerging flux tube

Zoe Sturrock, Alan William Hood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Context. Observations of flux emergence indicate that rotational velocities may develop within sunspots. However, the dependence of this rotation on sub-photospheric field strength and twist remains largely unknown.
Aims. We investigate the effects of varying the initial field strength and twist of an emerging sub-photospheric magnetic flux tube onthe rotation of the sunspots at the photosphere.
Methods. We consider a simple model of a stratified domain with a sub-photospheric interior layer and three overlying atmospheric layers. A twisted arched flux tube is inserted in the interior and is allowed to rise into the atmosphere. To achieve this, the MHD equations are solved using the Lagrangian-remap code, Lare3d. We perform a parameter study by independently varying the sub-photospheric magnetic field strength and twist.
Results. Altering the initial magnetic field strength and twist of the flux tube significantly affects the tube’s evolution and the rotational motions that develop at the photosphere. The rotation angle, vorticity, and current show a direct dependence on the initial field strength. We find that an increase in field strength increases the angle through which the fieldlines rotate, the length of the fieldlines extending into the atmosphere, and the magnetic energy transported to the atmosphere. This also affects the amount of residual twist in the interior. The length of the fieldlines is crucial as we predict the twist per unit length equilibrates to a lower value on longer fieldlines. No such direct dependence is found when we modify the twist of the magnetic field owing to the complex effect this has on the tension force acting on the tube. However, there is still a clear ordering in quantities such as the rotation angle, helicity, and free energy with higher initial twist cases being related to sunspots that rotate more rapidly, transporting more helicity and magnetic energy to the atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA63
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date21 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Methods: numerical
  • Sun: magnetic fields
  • Sun: interior
  • Sun: atmosphere


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