The Magnetic Mechanism for Hotspot Reversals in Hot Jupiter Atmospheres

A. W. Hindle, P. J. Bushby, T. M. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Magnetically driven hotspot variations (which are tied to atmospheric wind variations) in hot Jupiters are studied using nonlinear 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 quantitatively 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number176
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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