Abstract This paper reviews the studies of solar photospheric magnetic field evolution in active regions and its relationship to solar flares. It is divided into two topics, the magnetic structure and evolution leading to solar eruptions and rapid changes in the photospheric magnetic field associated with eruptions. For the first topic, we describe the magnetic complexity, new flux emergence, flux cancelation, shear motions, sunspot rotation and magnetic helicity injection, which may all contribute to the storage and buildup of energy that trigger solar eruptions. For the second topic, we concentrate on the observations of rapid and irreversible changes of the photospheric magnetic field associated with flares, and the implication on the restructuring of the three-dimensional magnetic field. In particular, we emphasize the recent advances in observations of the photospheric magnetic field, as state-of-the-art observing facilities (such as Hinode and Solar Dynamics Observatory) have become available. The linkages between observations, theories and future prospectives in this research area are also discussed.
Keywords Sun: flares — Sun: magnetic fields
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