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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 36, issue 4 | Copyright
Ann. Geophys., 36, 1027-1035, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Regular paper 27 Jul 2018

Regular paper | 27 Jul 2018

A possible source mechanism for magnetotail current sheet flapping

Liisa Juusola1,2, Yann Pfau-Kempf1, Urs Ganse1, Markus Battarbee1, Thiago Brito1, Maxime Grandin1, Lucile Turc1, and Minna Palmroth1,2 Liisa Juusola et al.
  • 1University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. The origin of the flapping motions of the current sheet in the Earth's magnetotail is one of the most interesting questions of magnetospheric dynamics yet to be solved. We have used a polar plane simulation from the global hybrid-Vlasov model Vlasiator to study the characteristics and source of current sheet flapping in the center of the magnetotail. The characteristics of the simulated signatures agree with observations reported in the literature. The flapping is initiated by a hemispherically asymmetric magnetopause perturbation, created by subsolar magnetopause reconnection, that is capable of displacing the tail current sheet from its nominal position. The current sheet displacement propagates downtail at the same pace as the driving magnetopause perturbation. The initial current sheet displacement launches a standing magnetosonic wave within the tail resonance cavity. The travel time of the wave within the local cavity determines the period of the subsequent flapping signatures. Compression of the tail lobes due to added flux affects the cross-sectional width of the resonance cavity as well as the magnetosonic speed within the cavity. These in turn modify the wave travel time and flapping period. The compression of the resonance cavity may also provide additional energy to the standing wave, which may lead to strengthening of the flapping signature. It may be possible that the suggested mechanism could act as a source of kink-like waves that have been observed to be emitted from the center of the tail and to propagate toward the dawn and dusk flanks.

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Short summary
The Earth's magnetic field is shaped by the solar wind. On the dayside the field is compressed and on the nightside it is stretched as a long tail. The tail has been observed to occasionally undergo flapping motions, but the origin of these motions is not understood. We study the flapping using a numerical simulation of the near-Earth space. We present a possible explanation for how the flapping could be initiated by a passing disturbance and then maintained as a standing wave.
The Earth's magnetic field is shaped by the solar wind. On the dayside the field is compressed...