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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 1
Ann. Geophys., 18, 11–27, 2000
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-000-0011-4
© European Geosciences Union 2000
Ann. Geophys., 18, 11–27, 2000
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-000-0011-4
© European Geosciences Union 2000

  31 Jan 2000

31 Jan 2000

Possible configurations of the magnetic field in the outer magnetosphere during geomagnetic polarity reversals

D. M. Willis*,1, A. C. Holder2,3, and C. J. Davis2 D. M. Willis et al.
  • 1Space and Astrophysics Group, Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
  • E-mail: dave@mail.eiscat.rl.ac.uk
  • 2Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0QX, UK
  • 3School of Mathematical and Information Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK
  • *Also Honorary Research Associate, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0QX, UK and Visiting Reader in Physics, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK

Abstract. Possible configurations of the magnetic field in the outer magnetosphere during geomagnetic polarity reversals are investigated by considering the idealized problem of a magnetic multipole of order m and degree n located at the centre of a spherical cavity surrounded by a boundless perfect diamagnetic medium. In this illustrative idealization, the fixed spherical (magnetopause) boundary layer behaves as a perfectly conducting surface that shields the external diamagnetic medium from the compressed multipole magnetic field, which is therefore confined within the spherical cavity. For a general magnetic multipole of degree n, the non-radial components of magnetic induction just inside the magnetopause are increased by the factor {1 + [(n + 1)/n]} relative to their corresponding values in the absence of the perfectly conducting spherical magnetopause. An exact equation is derived for the magnetic field lines of an individual zonal (m = 0), or axisymmetric, magnetic multipole of arbitrary degree n located at the centre of the magnetospheric cavity. For such a zonal magnetic multipole, there are always two neutral points and n-1 neutral rings on the spherical magnetopause surface. The two neutral points are located at the poles of the spherical magnetopause. If n is even, one of the neutral rings is coincident with the equator; otherwise, the neutral rings are located symmetrically with respect to the equator. The actual existence of idealized higher-degree (n>1) axisymmetric magnetospheres would necessarily imply multiple (n + 1) magnetospheric cusps and multiple (n) ring currents. Exact equations are also derived for the magnetic field lines of an individual non-axisymmetric magnetic multipole, confined by a perfectly conducting spherical magnetopause, in two special cases; namely, a symmetric sectorial multipole (m = n) and an antisymmetric sectorial multipole (m = n-1). For both these non-axisymmetric magnetic multipoles, there exists on the spherical magnetopause surface a set of neutral points linked by a network of magnetic field lines. Novel magnetospheric processes are likely to arise from the existence of magnetic neutral lines that extend from the magnetopause to the surface of the Earth. Finally, magnetic field lines that are confined to, or perpendicular to, either special meridional planes or the equatorial plane, when the multipole is in free space, continue to be confined to, or perpendicular to, these same planes when the perfectly conducting magnetopause is present.

Key words. Geomagnetism and paleomagnetism (reversals-process, time scale, magnetostratigraphy) · Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp, and boundary layers; magnetospheric configuration and dynamics)

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