Cyclic loss of open solar flux since 1868: the link to heliospheric current sheet tilt and implications for the Maunder Minimum
Owens, M. and Lockwood, M. (2012) Cyclic loss of open solar flux since 1868: the link to heliospheric current sheet tilt and implications for the Maunder Minimum. Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics, 117 (A4). ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/2011JA017193
Open solar flux (OSF) variations can be described by the imbalance between source and loss terms. We use spacecraft and geomagnetic observations of OSF from 1868 to present and assume the OSF source, S, varies with the observed sunspot number, R. Computing the required fractional OSF loss, χ, reveals a clear solar cycle variation, in approximate phase with R. While peak R varies significantly from cycle to cycle, χ is surprisingly constant in both amplitude and waveform. Comparisons of χ with measures of heliospheric current sheet (HCS) orientation reveal a strong correlation. The cyclic nature of χ is exploited to reconstruct OSF back to the start of sunspot records in 1610. This agrees well with the available spacecraft, geomagnetic, and cosmogenic isotope observations. Assuming S is proportional to R yields near-zero OSF throughout the Maunder Minimum. However, χ becomes negative during periods of low R, particularly the most recent solar minimum, meaning OSF production is underestimated. This is related to continued coronal mass ejection (CME) activity, and therefore OSF production, throughout solar minimum, despite R falling to zero. Correcting S for this produces a better match to the recent solar minimum OSF observations. It also results in a cycling, nonzero OSF during the Maunder Minimum, in agreement with cosmogenic isotope observations. These results suggest that during the Maunder Minimum, HCS tilt cycled as over recent solar cycles, and the CME rate was roughly constant at the levels measured during the most recent two solar minima.