Effect of latitudinal differential rotation on solar Rossby waves: Critical layers, eigenfunctions, and momentum fluxes in the equatorial beta plane
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Context. Retrograde-propagating waves of vertical vorticity with longitudinal wavenumbers between 3 and 15 have been observed on the Sun with a dispersion relation close to that of classical sectoral Rossby waves. The observed vorticity eigenfunctions are symmetric in latitude, peak at the equator, switch sign near 20 • -30 • , and decrease at higher latitudes. Aims. We search for an explanation that takes solar latitudinal differential rotation into account. Methods. In the equatorial β plane,
... equatorial β plane, we studied the propagation of linear Rossby waves (phase speed c < 0) in a parabolic zonal shear flow, U = −U ξ 2 < 0, where U = 244 m s −1 , and ξ is the sine of latitude. Results. In the inviscid case, the eigenvalue spectrum is real and continuous, and the velocity stream functions are singular at the critical latitudes where U = c. We add eddy viscosity to the problem to account for wave attenuation. In the viscous case, the stream functions solve a fourth-order modified Orr-Sommerfeld equation. Eigenvalues are complex and discrete. For reasonable values of the eddy viscosity corresponding to supergranular scales and above (Reynolds number 100 ≤ Re ≤ 700), all modes are stable. At fixed longitudinal wavenumber, the least damped mode is a symmetric mode whose real frequency is close to that of the classical Rossby mode, which we call the R mode. For Re ≈ 300, the attenuation and the real part of the eigenfunction is in qualitative agreement with the observations (unlike the imaginary part of the eigenfunction, which has a larger amplitude in the model). Conclusions. Each longitudinal wavenumber is associated with a latitudinally symmetric R mode trapped at low latitudes by solar differential rotation. In the viscous model, R modes transport significant angular momentum from the dissipation layers toward the equator.