Signature of solar g modes in first-order p -mode frequency shifts

Vincent G.A. Böning, Huanchen Hu, Laurent Gizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Context. Solar gravity modes (g modes) are buoyancy waves that are trapped in the solar radiative zone and have been very difficult to detect at the surface. Solar g modes would complement solar pressure modes (p modes) in probing the central regions of the Sun, for example the rotation rate of the core. Aims. A detection of g modes using changes in the large frequency separation of p modes has recently been reported. However, it is unclear how p and g modes interact. The aim of this study is to evaluate to what extent g modes can perturb the frequencies of p modes. Methods. We computed the first-order perturbation to global p-mode frequencies due to a flow field and perturbations to solar structure (e.g. density and sound speed) caused by a g mode. We focused on long-period g modes and assumed that the g-mode perturbations are constant in time. The surface amplitude of g modes is assumed to be 1 mm s-1, which is close to the observational limit set by Doppler observations. Results. Gravity modes do perturb p-mode frequencies to first order if the harmonic degree of the g mode is even and if its azimuthal order is zero. The effect is extremely small. For dipole and quadrupole p modes, all frequency shifts are smaller than 0.1 nHz, or 2 × 10-8 in relative numbers. This is because the relative perturbation to solar structure quantities caused by a g mode of realistic amplitude is of the order of 10-6-10-5. Additionally, we find that structural changes dominate over advection. Surprisingly, the interaction of g and p modes takes place to a large part near the surface, where p modes spend most of their propagation times and g modes generate the largest relative changes to solar structure. This is due to the steep density stratification, which compensates the evanescent behaviour of g modes in the convection zone. Conclusions. It appears to be impossible to detect g modes solely through their signature in p-mode frequency shifts. Whether g modes leave a detectable signature in p-mode travel times under a given observational setup remains an open question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA26
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019



  • Sun: helioseismology
  • Sun: interior
  • Sun: oscillations
  • Waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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