Entropy Rain: Dilution and Compression of Thermals in Stratified Domains

Evan H. Anders, Daniel Lecoanet, Benjamin P. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Large-scale convective flows called giant cells were once thought to transport the Sun's luminosity in the solar convection zone, but recent observations have called their existence into question. In place of large-scale flows, some authors have suggested the solar luminosity may instead be transported by small droplets of rapidly falling, low-entropy fluid. This "entropy rain" could propagate as dense vortex rings, analogous to rising buoyant thermals in the Earth's atmosphere. In this work, we develop an analytical theory describing the evolution of dense, negatively buoyant thermals. We verify the theory with 2D cylindrical and 3D Cartesian simulations of laminar, axisymmetric thermals in highly stratified atmospheres. Our results show that dense thermals fall in two categories: A stalling regime in which the droplets slow down and expand, and a falling regime in which the droplets accelerate and shrink as they propagate downwards. We estimate that solar downflows are in the falling regime and maintain their entropy perturbation against diffusion until they reach the base of the convection zone. This suggests that entropy rain may be an effective nonlocal mechanism for transporting the solar luminosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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