2.3 The supergranulation puzzle

From the previous discussion, the scales that can be constructed from standard arguments on turbulence and convection all appear to be much smaller than the supergranulation scale in the surface layers. Besides, as one goes deeper into the stratified SCZ, the injection scale increases smoothly and monotonically with depth, so the supergranulation scale does not show up as a special scale in deep layers either in this simple scenario. Overall, we may therefore conclude that understanding supergranulation from simple arguments based on available theories of turbulent convection is not possible. In this respect, it is worth pointing out that supergranulation lies at the large-scale edge of the injection range of turbulence at the solar surface, and might therefore not be directly correlated with hydrodynamic turbulent processes.

Uncovering the origin of supergranulation probably requires invoking physical processes that are not present in the most simple descriptions of turbulence. These processes may be specific to the solar context (e.g., surface radiation, chemical composition, ionisation states) or may have a more general dynamical origin (instabilities related to the interaction with rotation, magnetic fields, shear, non-local scale interactions in a turbulent flow). As we shall see in Sections 5, 6, and 8, a variety of qualitative physical scenarios based on one or several such processes has been proposed in the past but, as yet, they have not provided a fully comprehensive, predictive, and verifiable theoretical model for supergranulation.

If we succeed one day in explaining the origin of the solar supergranulation, we may very well gain some new insight into turbulent convection or discover completely new physical effects at the same time. Attempting to solve the supergranulation problem therefore represents a very exciting challenge not only from the astrophysics point of view, but also from a fundamental physics perspective.


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