Aims. We investigate the propagation of transverse magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) wave fronts through a coronal plasma containing a braided magnetic field.
Methods. We performed a series of three dimensional MHD simulations in which a small amplitude, transverse velocity perturbation is introduced into a complex magnetic field. We analysed the deformation of the wave fronts as the perturbation propagates through the braided magnetic structures and explore the nature of Alfvénic wave phase mixing in this regime. We considered the effects of viscous dissipation in a weakly non-ideal plasma and evaluate the effects of field complexity on wave energy dissipation.
Results. Spatial gradients in the local Alfvén speed and variations in the length of magnetic field lines ensure that small scales form throughout the propagating wave front due to phase mixing. Additionally, the presence of complex, intricate current sheets associated with the background field locally modifies the polarisation of the wave front. The combination of these two effects enhances the rate of viscous dissipation, particularly in more complex field configurations. Unlike in classical phase mixing configurations, the greater spatial extent of Alfvén speed gradients ensures that wave energy is deposited over a larger cross-section of the magnetic structure. Further, the complexity of the background magnetic field ensures that small gradients in a wave driver can map to large gradients within the coronal plasma.
Conclusions. The phase mixing of transverse MHD waves in a complex magnetic field will progress throughout the braided volume. As a result, in a non-ideal regime wave energy will be dissipated over a greater cross-section than in classical phase mixing models. The formation rate of small spatial scales in a propagating wave front is a function of the complexity of the background magnetic field. As such, if the coronal field is sufficiently complex it remains plausible that phase mixing induced wave heating can contribute to maintaining the observed temperatures. Furthermore, the weak compressibility of the transverse wave and the observed phase mixing pattern may provide seismological information about the nature of the background plasma.