Detection of equatorward meridional flow and evidence of double-cell meridional circulation inside the sun

Junwei Zhao, R. S. Bogart, A. G. Kosovichev, T. L. Duvall, Thomas Hartlep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


Meridional flow in the solar interior plays an important role in redistributing angular momentum and transporting magnetic flux inside the Sun. Although it has long been recognized that the meridional flow is predominantly poleward at the Sun's surface and in its shallow interior, the location of the equatorward return flow and the meridional flow profile in the deeper interior remain unclear. Using the first 2 yr of continuous helioseismology observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory/Helioseismic Magnetic Imager, we analyze travel times of acoustic waves that propagate through different depths of the solar interior carrying information about the solar interior dynamics. After removing a systematic center-to-limb effect in the helioseismic measurements and performing inversions for flow speed, we find that the poleward meridional flow of a speed of 15 m s-1 extends in depth from the photosphere to about 0.91 R. An equatorward flow of a speed of 10 m s -1 is found between 0.82 and 0.91 R in the middle of the convection zone. Our analysis also shows evidence of that the meridional flow turns poleward again below 0.82 R, indicating an existence of a second meridional circulation cell below the shallower one. This double-cell meridional circulation profile with an equatorward flow shallower than previously thought suggests a rethinking of how magnetic field is generated and redistributed inside the Sun.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL29
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: helioseismology
  • Sun: interior
  • Sun: oscillations


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