Diagnosing the Time-dependence of Active Region Core Heating from the Emission Measure. I. Low-frequency Nanoflares
Observational measurements of active region emission measures contain clues to the time dependence of the underlying heating mechanism. A strongly nonlinear scaling of the emission measure with temperature indicates a large amount of hot plasma relative to warm plasma. A weakly nonlinear (or linear) scaling of the emission measure indicates a relatively large amount of warm plasma, suggesting that the hot active region plasma is allowed to cool and so the heating is impulsive with a long repeat time. This case is called low-frequency nanoflare heating, and we investigate its feasibility as an active region heating scenario here. We explore a parameter space of heating and coronal loop properties with a hydrodynamic model. For each model run, we calculate the slope α of the emission measure distribution EM(T)vpropT α. Our conclusions are: (1) low-frequency nanoflare heating is consistent with about 36% of observed active region cores when uncertainties in the atomic data are not accounted for; (2) proper consideration of uncertainties yields a range in which as many as 77% of observed active regions are consistent with low-frequency nanoflare heating and as few as zero; (3) low-frequency nanoflare heating cannot explain observed slopes greater than 3; (4) the upper limit to the volumetric energy release is in the region of 50 erg cm-3 to avoid unphysical magnetic field strengths; (5) the heating timescale may be short for loops of total length less than 40 Mm to be consistent with the observed range of slopes; (6) predicted slopes are consistently steeper for longer loops.