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The Magnetic Mechanism for Hotspot Reversals in Hot Jupiter Atmospheres

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alex HindleORCiD, Professor Paul BushbyORCiD, Professor Tamara Rogers



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Magnetically-driven hotspot variations (which are tied to atmospheric wind variations) in hot Jupiters are studied using non-linear numerical simulations of a shallow-water magnetohydrodynamic (SWMHD) system and a linear analysis of equatorial SWMHD waves. In hydrodynamic models, mid-to-high latitude geostrophic circulations are known to cause a net west-to-east equatorial thermal energy transfer, which drives hotspot offsets eastward. We find that a strong toroidal magnetic field can obstruct these energy transporting circulations. This results in winds aligning with the magnetic field and generates westward Lorentz force accelerations in hotspot regions, ultimately causing westward hotspot offsets. In the subsequent linear analysis we find that this reversal mechanism has an equatorial wave analogy in terms of the planetary scale equatorial magneto-Rossby waves. We compare our findings to three-dimensional MHD simulations, both quantitively and qualitatively, identifying the link between the mechanics of magnetically-driven hotspot and wind reversals. We use the developed theory to identify physically-motivated reversal criteria, which can be used to place constraints on the magnetic fields of ultra-hot Jupiters with observed westward hotspots.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hindle AW, Bushby PJ, Rogers TM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal

Year: 2021

Volume: 922

Issue: 2

Online publication date: 29/11/2021

Acceptance date: 22/06/2021

Date deposited: 13/07/2021

ISSN (print): 0004-637X

ISSN (electronic): 1538-4357

Publisher: Institution of Physics


DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac0e2e


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