Exploring Bistability in the Cycles of the Solar Dynamo through Global Simulations
The calling card of solar magnetism is the sunspot cycle, during which sunspots regularly reverse their polarity sense every 11 years. However, a number of more complicated time-dependent behaviors have also been identified. In particular, there are temporal modulations associated with active longitudes and hemispheric asymmetry, when sunspots appear at certain solar longitudes or else in one hemisphere preferentially. So far, a direct link between between this asymmetric temporal behavior and the underlying solar dynamo has remained elusive. In this work, we present results from global, 3D magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations, which for the first time display both behavior reminiscent of the sunspot cycle (regular polarity reversals and equatorward migration of internal magnetic field) and asymmetric, irregular behavior that in the simulations we interpret as active longitudes and hemispheric asymmetry. The simulations are thus bistable, in that the turbulent convection can stably support two distinct flavors of magnetism at different times, in superposition, or with smooth transitions from one state to the other. We discuss this new family of dynamo models in the context of the extensive observations of the Sun's surface magnetic field with the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), as well as earlier observations of sunspot number and synoptic maps. We suggest that the solar dynamo itself may be bistable in nature, exhibiting two types of temporal behavior in the magnetic field.
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The Astrophysical Journal
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