Context. Heat flux is one of the main energy transport mechanisms in the weakly collisional plasma of the solar corona. There, rare binary collisions let hot electrons travel over long distances and influence other regions along magnetic field lines. Thus, the fully collisional heat flux models might not describe transport well enough since they consider only the local contribution of electrons. The heat flux in weakly collisional plasmas at high temperatures with large mean free paths has to consider the nonlocality of the energy transport in the frame of nonlocal models in order to treat energy balance in the solar atmosphere properly.
Aims: We investigate the impact of nonlocal heat flux on the thermal evolution and dynamics of the solar atmosphere by implementing a nonlocal heat flux model in a 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulation of the solar corona.
Methods: We simulate the evolution of solar coronal plasma and magnetic fields considering both a local collision dominated and a nonlocal heat flux model. The initial magnetic field is obtained by a potential extrapolation of the observed line-of-sight magnetic field of AR11226. The system is perturbed by moving the plasma at the photosphere. We compared the simulated evolution of the solar atmosphere in its dependence on the heat flux model.
Results: The main differences for the average temperature profiles were found in the upper chromosphere/transition region. In the nonlocal heat transport model case, thermal energy is transported more efficiently to the upper chromosphere and lower transition region and leads to an earlier heating of the lower atmosphere. As a consequence, the structure of the solar atmosphere is affected with the nonlocal simulations producing on average a smoother temperature profile and the transition region placed about 500 km higher. Using a nonlocal heat flux also leads to two times higher temperatures in some of the regions in the lower corona.
Conclusions: The results of our 3D MHD simulations considering nonlocal heat transport supports the previous results of simpler 1D two-fluid simulations. They demonstrated that it is important to consider a nonlocal formulation for the heat flux when there is a strong energy deposit, like the one observed during flares, in the solar corona.