Rossby waves are a type of global-scale wave that develops in planetary atmospheres, driven by the planet’s rotation1. They propagate westward owing to the Coriolis force, and their characterization enables more precise forecasting of weather on Earth2,3. Despite the massive reservoir of rotational energy available in the Sun’s interior and decades of observational investigation, their solar analogue defies unambiguous identification4–6. Here we analyse a combined set of images obtained by the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft between 2011 and 2013 in order to follow the evolution of small bright features, called brightpoints, which are tracers of rotationally driven large-scale convection7. We report the detection of persistent, global-scale bands of magnetized activity on the Sun that slowly meander westward in longitude and display Rossby-wave-like behaviour. These magnetized Rossby waves allow us to make direct connections between decadal-scale solar activity and that on much shorter timescales. Monitoring the properties of these waves, and the wavenumber of the disturbances that they generate, has the potential to yield a considerable improvement in forecast capability for solar activity and related space weather phenomena.
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The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the compilation of feature databases used was supported by NASA grant NNX08AU30G. W.J.C. and M.P.M. were supported by NSF REU grant 1157020 to the University of Colorado.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Supplementary Figures 1–3 and Supplementary Videos 1–5 captions. (PDF 2177 kb)
Longitude-latitude variation of the SDO/AIA and STEREO/EUVI brightpoints identification from 1 June 2010 to 31 May 2013. (MP4 48622 kb)
Longitude-latitude variation of the AIA/EUVI brightpoints density distribution from 1 June 2010 to 31 May 2013. (MP4 15153 kb)
Pole-on projection for the AIA/EUVI brightpoints density distribution in the southern solar hemisphere. (MP4 31385 kb)
Pole-on projection for the AIA/EUVI brightpoints density distribution in the northern solar hemisphere. (MP4 32667 kb)
Latitude versus time variation of the 28-day-averaged AIA/EUVI brightpoints density at different solar longitudes (MP4 6491 kb)
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McIntosh, S., Cramer, W., Pichardo Marcano, M. et al. The detection of Rossby-like waves on the Sun. Nat Astron 1, 0086 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-017-0086
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