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ISSN 18458319


D. Utz1,2,3 , T. Van Doorsselaere2 , O. K
uhner1 ,
N. Magyar , I. Calvo Santamaria , J. I. Campos Rozo4

IGAM/Institute of Physics, University of Graz,

atsplatz 5, AT8010 Graz, Austria
Centre for mathematical Plasma Astrophysics, KU Leuven,
BE3001 Leuven, Belgium
IAA - Instituto de Astrofsica de Andaluca, CSIC,
Glorieta de la Astronoma, s/n, ES18080 Granada, Spain
National Astronomical Observatory of Colombia
National University of Colombia,
Bogota, Colombia

Abstract. A long-lasting problem of solar physics is the topic of the heating of the outer
atmospheric layers of the Sun. Among the possible heating scenarios are wave driven
heating processes. In this scenario disturbances and turbulence in the photosphere of the
Sun causes the creation of waves which propagate upwards into the higher atmosphere
where these waves are at least partially damped and absorbed, causing heating of the
It is thought nowadays that especially MHD waves play an important role in such
heating scenarios. The created MHD waves are guided along strong vertical magnetic
field configurations, so-called flux-tubes into the higher atmosphere. To obtain deeper
insights into this fascinating topic, numerical simulations are a useful tool at hand.
However, up to now it is still quite common to assume simple, meaning non horizontally stratified, flux tubes which feature in addition weak magnetic field strengths. While
this makes the modeling of the solar atmosphere and the magnetic field configuration
much easier, the results might be changed drastically by this simplifications. In the current contribution we wish to outline a method of how to construct self-consistence and
magneto-static flux tube atmospheres.
Key words: solar magnetic field, numerical simulations, flux tubes, MHD waves



It is well-known that the outer solar atmospheric layers are hotter than the
photosphere. Actually the temperature decreases with height up to the temCent. Eur. Astrophys. Bull. vol (2016) 1, 1


perature minimum before it gradually and slowly rises in the chromosphere

before featuring an enormous rise in temperature by several magnitudes in
the transition region to finally end with a million degree Kelvin hot corona.
Due to radiation loses the solar atmosphere needs to be steadily heated up
to maintain such high temperatures. This constitutes the so-called coronal
heating problem, a fundamental problem of solar physics (e.g., Klimchuk,
Among the possible observed phenomena which could help to solve
the heating problem are wave processes. The principle idea is that photospheric dynamics creates all kind of waves which can propagate upwards
into the higher atmosphere where various processes such as reflection, refraction, mode conversion, damping and absorption can occur (see, e.g.,
Mathioudakis et al., 2013). The most favourite wave candidates nowadays
are of MHD origin as wave theory predicts that simple sound waves could
not penetrate into the higher atmosphere and would be already stopped in
the lower atmosphere (interested readers might delve deeper into the topic
by considering, e.g., Goossens et al., 2011).
Naturally these kind of waves propagate favourable along magnetic field
lines, especially along strong magnetic field concentrations which can be
seen in the solar photosphere as so-called magnetic bright points which
represent practically the cross-section of kG strong vertical magnetic flux
tubes (e.g., Utz et al., 2013). While there is a sparse literature dealing with
wave propagation from the viewpoint of observations, a higher interest was
paid to numerical simulations of such wave processes (to name a few: Jess
et al., 2009; Fedun et al., 2011). However, most of these simulations use
the one or other trick to circumvent problems arising out of a realistic solar
magnetic flux tube atmosphere. Among these unrealistic simplifications are
horizontal non-stratified flux tubes, i.e. they are assumed implicitly to be
isothermal and isochore (often even sharing the same values in their interior
with their surrounding), and generally they feature to weak magnetic field
strengths - only several hundreds of Gauss instead of a kG.
While these simplifications help tremendously in the treatment of the
numerical modeling problem, e.g. magneto-static considerations must not
be done or can be easily fullfilled as long as the magnetic field has a weak
influence on the surrounding plasma; or the correct treatment of the flux
tube expansion with height in the atmosphere is not that important (see
Utz, K
uhner, Van Doorsselaere, Magyar, Calvo Santamaria and I., 2016;

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Utz, K
uhner, Van Doorsselaere, Hanslmeier, Veronig and Muller, 2016);
These simplifications have for sure an enourmous impact on the wave propagation as well as other wave related processes, such as mode conversion,
reflection, refraction, or resonant absorption (e.g., Magyar and Van Doorsselaere, 2016).
In this contribution we wish to outline a method with which it is possible
to construct quite arbitrary solar atmospheres containing several vertical,
expanding strong magnetic flux tubes, which are nevertheless nearly perfectly in magneto-static equilibrium.


MPI-AMRVAC and the background atmosphere

This work was performed with the numerical code MPI-AMRVAC (see, e.g.,
Porth et al., 2014) which stands for message passing interface adaptive mesh
refinement versatile advection code. It is a Fortran written code maintained
and hosted at the Centre for mathematical Plasma Astrophysics of the KU
Leuven in Belgium. It is free for use and can be downloaded under the
following link: keppens/;
The code can be used very versatile as it includes various numerical
solvers for different physical problems such as hydrodynamics, magnetohydrodynamics, or special relativity magneto-hydrodynamics. Except of
these standard modules the code also supports the user with the possibility of including user defined physical modules. Also various additional
physical processes such as viscosity, gravity, or resistivity can be switched
on/off as well as varied in strength.
In our case we used the ideal MHD equations, meaning no electrical
resistivity as well as no viscosity, but with a full implemented energy equation (non isothermal and non polytropic) in a gravitational stratified atmosphere.
To simplify matters we modeled the background atmospheric temperature profile as a compound consisting of three distinctive regions with
isothermal temperatures, namely the photosphere with 5400 K, the chromosphere with 4700 K, and the corona with a million degree K. Moreover,
the transition between the atmospheric layers are modeled via hyperbolic
tangent functions. The whole atmospheric temperature profile with height
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(h) can thus be written down as:

1 + tanh((h hpcr )/wpcr )
1 + tanh((h hcrc )/wcrc )
(Tcor Tchr )

T (h) = Tpho + (Tchr Tpho )


where T represents the temperature in a certain height h. The specified

parameters are the temperatures in the different layers: Tpho , photospheric
temperature with 5400 K, Tchr chromospheric temperature with 4700 K,
and Tcor the coronal temperature with a value of 1 million degree K. Moreover hpcr and hcrc represent the heights of the transition from the photosphere to the chromosphere ( 150 km) as well as from the chromosphere to
the corona ( 2500 km). The final set of parameters describe the width of
the transition layers from one atmospheric region to the next one, depicted
as wpcr , width of the transition from the photosphere to the chromosphere
with an assumed value of 200 km and wcrc , width of the transition from
the chromosphere to the corona with a chosen value of 400 km.
In a next step we need to create out of the temperature profile the pressure and the density profile of the magnetic field free solar atmosphere. To
do so, we remember basic physics, namely the hydrostatic pressure equation
and the ideal gas law:
dp = g dz


P V = n R T,


where P is the pressure, V is the volume, n the number of moles, R is the

universal gas constant, T is the temperature, is the density, g is the solar
surface gravity, and z the height in the atmosphere. After replacing n, and
V by , and , the molar mass and inserting the universale gas equation
into the hydrostatic equation we end up with:
dp =
R T (z)
This equation can be rewritten in such a way as to split the pressure terms
and the height dependent terms enabling an easy integration, yielding a
very similar equation to the well known barometric height formula:

zh dz
p(h) = p0 exp
R z0 T (z)

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Thus it becomes clear that another advantage in approximating the solar

atmospheric temperature profile with hyperbolic tangent functions lies in
the possibility of calculating analytic solutions Rfor the pressure and density
profile in the solar atmosphere. The integral dz/T (z) can be split in 4
domains under the approximation that tanh(x) goes to 1 for sufficient
large positive or negative values (for practical purposes we have chosen that
values to be 5 wpcr or 5 wcrc , respectively). Two domains show then a
constant temperature (chromosphere and corona) and can be solved by the
normal barometric scale height formula, while
R the two transition regions
practically follow the solution of the integral 1/(const + tanh(x))dx.

p0 exp R
Tr1 (h) ;h hpcr+ 5 wpcr

p(hpcr + 5 wpcr ) exp h ; hpcr + 5 wpcr < h hcrc 5 wcrc



p(hpcr 5 wcrc ) exp  R Tr2(h) ; hcrc 5 wcrc < h hcrc + 5 wcrc

p(hcrc + 5 wcrc ) exp h ; h > hcrc + 5 wpcr ,


where Tr1 and Tr2 are

Tr1 (h) =
1+tanh((hhpcr )/wpcr )
Tpho + (Tchr Tpho )
Tr2 (h) =
crc )/wcrc )
Tchr + (Tcor Tchr ) 1+tanh((hh


The resulting integration constant has to be chosen in such a way as that

the pressure profile is continuous. After evaluating the pressure profiles the
density profiles can be calculated via the ideal gas law.

Constructing a flux tube

A usual approach to construct divergence B field free magnetic field configurations is, e.g., given in Shelyag et al. (2010) and references therein, where
the authors use a vertical magnetic field profile Bz through the magnetic
flux tube as well as a so-called expansion function to construct, with the
help of a given mathematical formulation, a general field configuration for
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Bx (x, z) as well as Bz (x, z). The arising problem consists of how to know
in advance the vertical magnetic field profile Bz as well as the expansion
function. Besides, how to tune and adjust the created flux configuration to
approach an agreement between the modeled atmosphere and observations?
In our case we have chosen a different approach. As we have already
a certain picture of the vertical expansion of flux tubes in mind (similar
to an inverted bottle) we wished to have a more direct control on the
shape of the magnetic field configuration. In our case we assumed that a
horizontal cut through a magnetic flux tube would yield a profile similar
to a Gaussian curve. Moreover, we assume that a flux tube should expand
similar to a hyperbolic tangent with height, i.e. the vertical magnetic flux
tube expands in height and becomes more horizontal before merging with
neighbouring magnetic fields in the chromospheric canopy structure after
which the magnetic field lines become more vertical again. Thus we set up
the B(z) component as follows:
B(x, z) =
Bf c (z)

(x x0 )2

h h0
(z) = 0 + 1 1 + tanh



with Bf c (z) being a flux normalisation function depending on height:

Bf c (x, z) =


(x x0 )2



Here one can change the shape of the flux tube via the set of parameters
from 0 , 1 , h0 , and wf , while the strength of the flux tube can be adjusted
by Bz0 and the position via x0 . 0 is responsible for the initial width of the
flux tube, while 1 controls the additional opening in height; h0 controls
the height of the opening and wf the speed of opening. Thus we have now a
flux tube model which can be adjusted easily to observed real parameters.
The necessary horizontal magnetic field strength Bx can be calculated via
the divergence B criterion. In 2 dimensions this would be
Bx Bz
= 0;


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which gives us a numerical approach to be included in the code:

Bx (x + 1, z) = Bx (x 1, z) + (Bz (x, z + 1) Bz (x, z 1)) (x/z); (14)
Starting on the left lower boundary and running row by row through the
matrix, the corresponding divergence free Bx field for a given Bz field can
be reconstructed. The Bx zero point must be chosen by the user. As we wish
to have non inclined vertical magnetic flux tubes the absolute reference level
of Bx is chosen in such a way that Bx at the central position of the flux tube
is equal to 0. In the next chapter we will now discuss the important point of
how to obtain a magnetostatic solution for the generated atmosphere and
flux tube.

Fullfilling magnetostatic conditions

Fullfilling the magnetostatic conditions is in general not an easy task and

normally leads to the necessity of solving Grad-Shafranov like problems.
In our case we do not wish to obtain an analytic solution but a numerical
solution consisting of local calculations on the available grid. The whole
solution is based on the idea that one could think of having in principle
only one free parameter, the pressure, to counteract the Lorenz force. Fortunately this is not true as we can, in a gravitational stratified atmosphere,
also adjust the density. This gives us two scalar fields (pressure and density)
to compensate for the 2 vector components of the Lorenz force. To have a
more detailed look into this we write the MHD force equation (consisting of
the gas pressure, Lorenz force and gravitation) for both vector components
~ )
~ B
~ P ~g = 0 (15)
F =

2 0
Bx x Bx Bz z Bx 2Bx x Bx + 2Bz x Bz
Fx =

x P = 0 (16)
Bx x Bz
Bz z Bz
2Bx z Bx + 2Bz z Bz
Fz =

z P g = 0; (17)
We see that we can use Equ. 16 now to constrain the scalar pressure field,
or in other words, use the scalar pressure field to fullfill the magnetostatic
condition for the x-component of the force equation. The derived numeric
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calculation rule is as follows:

P (x + 1, z) = P (x 1) +

Bz z Bx Bz x Bz




or, after writing the partial derivatives in a numeric scheme:

Bz (Bx (x, z + 1) Bx (x, z 1))
P (x + 1, z) = P (x 1) +
2z 0
Bz (Bz (x + 1, z) Bz (x 1, z))
Thus we have found a rule of how to modify the pressure field to obtain a
horizontally force free magnetic field configuration. This rule can be applied
numerically by, e.g., going row by row from the left bottom to the right top
through the pressure matrix, which will, when employed, compensate for
the horizontal Lorenz force. Next we use Equ. 17 to generate an update rule
for the density field to compensate for the vertical Lorenz force. Rewriting
Equ. 17 for the density yields:

Bx x Bz
Bx z Bx z P

g 0
g 0


After expressing the partial derivatives it follows:

Bx (x, z) (Bz (x + 1, z) Bz (x 1, z))

g0 2x
Bx (x, z) (Bx (x, z + 1) Bx (x, z 1)) P (x, z + 1) P (x, z 1

g0 2z
g 2z
Again we can go row by row from left to right through the density matrix
and update the necessary density to compensate for the vertical total force
(Lorenz plus gravity). Thus we have now finally created a solar atmosphere
in which we can inscribe a flux tube (or also several by adding up the created
Bz fields before constructing the Bx field) which will be in magnetostatic
equilibrium. Via our method of creating the magnetostatic equilibrium we
also get in a natural and self consistent way an inside stratification (vertical
as well as horizontal) of the flux tube in all thermodynamic parameters
(pressure, density and as a consequence of both, temperature). Naturally
one could ask at that point the question, if on the real Sun small-scale
(x, z) =

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Total magnetic field strength map sqrt(Bx +Bz )

height in solar atmosphere in Mm

550 G


x-position in Mm

Figure 1: shows a three flux tube magnetic field configuration. The color represents the
total magnetic field strength. Black solid lines illustrate the magnetic field lines.

magnetic fields are at all in a magnetostatic equilibrium or if they undergo

all the time dynamic processes (see, e.g., Utz et al., 2014)?
This has to be answered of course by observations.

A test example

We employ now the derived method to obtain a solar flux tube atmosphere
with 3 expanding vertical magnetic flux tubes. The central flux tube has a
positive polarity and features a field strength of around 500 G, representing
a network element, while the neighbouring flux tubes have opposite polarity, are weaker with around 120 G and represent internetwork magnetic
elements situated around 2 Mm far away from the network element (2 to
2.5 granular mean diameters). The magnetic field configuration is shown in
Fig. 1. Displayed is the total magnetic field strength sqrt(Bx2 +Bz2 ) together
with the corresponding magnetic field lines.
Figure 2 illustrates the obtained pressure, density, and temperature
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stratifications for the magnetic flux tube atmosphere. Clearly one can see
the starting evacuation of the strong magnetic element in the lower atmosphere (photosphere and chromosphere). Another interesting feature is the
heated chromospheric upper section of the flux tube which is well known
from chromospheric Ca II H observations (Ca bright points). The last obvious feature is that the expanding magnetic field leads to a strong horizontal magnetic field canopy which obviously needs to be cooler to be
in pressure equilibrium. Therefore, even without explicitly implementing a
chromospheric temperature minimun, solving the magnetostatic conditions
leads automatically to a chromospheric temperature drop and minimum
within the magnetic canopy layer. Here one should remember that our initial temperature profile would have featured a chromospheric temperature
of 4700 K and would have been isothermal after the transition down from
the photospheric temperature.

Conclusions and outlook

In this short paper we outlined rigorously how one can set up a solar flux
tube atmosphere, spanning from the phtosphere to the corona. After detailing how the atmosphere and the flux tubes can be constructed we described
thoroughly how to solve for the magnetostatic conditions within the numerical domain. The shown approach gives us the flexibility of setting up an
atmosphere in 2D with various flux tubes and shapes at different positions
which are in the beginning in a good magnetostatic equilibrium. An additional advantage of solving the magnetostatic conditions directly within the
numerical box lies in obtaining corresponding and self-consistent plasma
stratifications (pressure, density, and temperature) for a given magnetic
field configuration. In the future we wish to apply photospheric disturbances to our created atmosphere to investigate in detail wave propagation
This research received support by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P27800.
Additional funding was possible through an Odysseus grant of the FWO
Vlaanderen, the IAP P7/08 CHARM (Belspo), and GOA-2015-014 (KU

Cent. Eur. Astrophys. Bull. vol (2016) 1, 10


Density map

25 Mpa

0.5 kg/m

2500 Pa

0.001 kg/m3

height in solar atmosphere in Mm

height in solar atmosphere in Mm

Gas pressure map

x-position in Mm

x-position in Mm

Temperature map
10000 K

height in solar atmosphere in Mm

3000 K

x-position in Mm

Figure 2: the pressure, density, and temperature stratifications for the previous shown
flux tube configuration to obtain magnetostatic conditions.

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