Towards better constrained models of the solar magnetic cycle
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The best tools we have for understanding the origin of solar magnetic variability are kinematic dynamo models. During the last decade, this type of models has seen a continuous evolution and has become increasingly successful at reproducing solar cycle characteristics. The basic ingredients of these models are: the solar differential rotation - which acts as the main source of energy for the system by shearing the magnetic field; the meridional circulation - which plays a crucial role in magnetic field transport; the turbulent diffusivity - which attempts to capture the effect of convective turbulence on the large scale magnetic field; and the poloidal field source - which closes the cycle by regenerating the poloidal magnetic field. However, most of these ingredients remain poorly constrained which allows one to obtain solar-like solutions by "tuning" the input parameters, leading to controversy regarding which parameter set is more appropriate. In this thesis we revisit each of those ingredients in an attempt to constrain them better by using observational data and theoretical considerations, reducing the amount of free parameters in the model. For the meridional flow and differential rotation we use helioseismic data to constrain free parameters and find that the differential rotation is well determined, but the available data can only constrain the latitudinal dependence of the meridional flow. For the turbulent magnetic diffusivity we show that combining mixing-length theory estimates with magnetic quenching allows us to obtain viable magnetic cycles and that the commonly used diffusivity profiles can be understood as a spatiotemporal average of this process. For the poloidal source we introduce a more realistic way of modeling active region emergence and decay and find that this resolves existing discrepancies between kinematic dynamo models and surface flux transport simulations. We also study the physical mechanisms behind the unusually long minimum of cycle 23 and find it to be tied to changes in the meridional flow. Finally, by carefully constraining the system through surface magnetic field observations, we find that what is believed to be the primary source of poloidal field (also known as Babckock-Leigthon mechanism) may not be enough to sustain the solar magnetic cycle.