This paper reviews studies of the relationship between the evolution of vector magnetic fields and the occurrence of major solar flares. Most of the data were obtained by the video magnetograph systems at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) and Huairou Solar Observatory (HSO). Due to the favorable weather and seeing conditions at both stations, high-resolution vector magnetograph sequences of many active regions that produced major flares during last solar maximum (1989-1993) have been recorded. We have analyzed several sequences of magnetograms to study the evolution of vector magnetic fields of flare productive active regions. The studies have focused on the following three aspects: (1) processes which build up magnetic shear in active regions; (2) the pre-flare magnetic structure of active regions; and (3) changes of magnetic shear immediately preceding and following major flares. We obtained the following results based on above studies: (1) Emerging flux regions (EFRs) play very important roles in the production of complicated photospheric flow patterns, magnetic shear and flares. (2) Although the majority of flares prefer to occur in magnetically sheared regions, many flares occurred in regions without strong photospheric magnetic shear. (3) We found that photospheric magnetic shear increased after all the 6 X-class flares studied by us. We want to emphasize that this discovery is not contradictory to the energy conservation principle, because a flare is a three-dimensional process, and the photosphere only provides a two-dimensional boundary condition. This argument is supported by the fact that if two initial ribbons of a flare are widely separated (which may correspond to a higher-altitude flare), the correlation of the flare with strong magnetic shear is weak; if the two ribbons of a flare are close (which may correspond to a lower-altitude flare), its correlation with the strong shear is strong. (4) We have analyzed 18 additional M-class flares observed by HSO in 1989 and 1990. No detectable shear change was found for all the cases. It is likely that only the most energetic flares can affect the photospheric magnetic topology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science