Shaping Meridional Circulation in Solar and Stellar Convection Zones

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Nicholas Andrew Featherstone, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States and Mark S Miesch, NCAR, Boulder, CO, United States
Meridional circulations play a crucial role in mediating the angular momentum transport within stellar convection zones and, likely, in determining the nature and timing of their dynamos. The length of the solar cycle, for instance, is thought to depend intimately on the transport of magnetic fields by the meridional circulations in the convection zone. We present a series of 3-D nonlinear simulations of solar-like convection, carried out using the Anelastic Spherical Harmonic (ASH) code that are designed to provide insight into those processes responsible for driving and shaping the meridional circulations established within stellar convection zones. These 3-D models have been constructed in such a way as to span the transition between regimes of solar-like differential rotation (fast equator, slow poles) and regimes of so-called ``anti-solar'' differential rotation (slow equator, fast poles). Solar-like states of differential rotation are characterized by multiple cells of meridional circulation in depth at low latitudes, whereas anti-solar states of differential rotation are characterized by a single cell of circulation within each hemisphere. We demonstrate that the transition from single-celled to multi-celled meridional circulation profiles in these two different regimes is directly linked to a change in the nature of the convective Reynolds stress. These results suggest that if convection in the Sun is strongly rotationally-constrained, a multi-cellular meridional circulation profile may well be expected. Transitional regimes do exist, however, and we conclude by examining a simulation wherein convection that is only marginally rotationally constrained can drive both mono-cellular meridional circulation and solar-like differential rotation.