Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
22 Jul 2010
 | 22 Jul 2010

Self-organized criticality in solar flares: a cellular automata approach

L. F. Morales and P. Charbonneau

Abstract. We give an overview of a novel lattice-based avalanche model that reproduces well a number of observed statistical properties of solar flares. The anisotropic lattice is defined as a network of vertically-connected nodes subjected to horizontal random displacements mimicking the kinks introduced by random motions of the photospheric footpoints of magnetic fieldlines forming a coronal loop. We focus here on asymmetrical driving displacements, which under our geometrical interpretation of the lattice correspond to a net direction of twist of the magnetic fieldlines about the loop axis. We show that a net vertical electrical current density does build up in our lattice, as one would expect from systematic twisting of a loop-like magnetic structure, and that the presence of this net current has a profound impact on avalanche dynamics. The presence of an additional energy reservoir tends to increase the mean energy released by avalanches, and yield a probability distribution of released energy in better agreement with observational inferences than in its absence. Symmetrical driving displacements are in better conceptual agreement with a random shuffling of photospheric footpoint, and yield a power-law distribution of energy release with exponent larger than 2, as required in Parker's nanoflare model of coronal heating. On the other hand, moderate asymmetrical driving generate energy distribution exponents that are similar to those obtained from SOHO EUV observations.