© European Geosciences Union 2004
Forced current sheet structure, formation and evolution: application to magnetic reconnection in the magnetosphere
Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University, 119992 Moscow, Russia
Abstract. By means of a simulation model, the earlier predicted nonlinear kinetic structure, a Forced Kinetic Current Sheet (FKCS), with extremely anisotropic ion distributions, is shown to appear as a result of a fast nonlinear process of transition from a previously existing equilibrium. This occurs under triggering action of a weak MHD disturbance that is applied at the boundary of the simulation box. In the FKCS, current is carried by initially cold ions which are brought into the CS by convection from both sides, and accelerated inside the CS. The process then appears to be spontaneously self-sustained, as a MHD disturbance of a rarefaction wave type propagates over the background plasma outside the CS. Comparable to the Alfvénic discontinuity in MHD, transformation of electromagnetic energy into the energy of plasma flows occurs at the FKCS. But unlike the MHD case, ``free" energy is produced here: dissipation should occur later, through particle interaction with turbulent waves generated by unstable ion distribution being formed by the FKCS action. In this way, an effect of magnetic field ``annihilation" appears, required for fast magnetic reconnection. Application of the theory to observations at the magnetopause and in the magnetotail is considered.