Magnetopause Waves Controlling the Dynamics of Earth’s Magnetosphere

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  • ABSTRACT

    Earth’s magnetopause separating the fast and often turbulent magnetosheath and the relatively stagnant magnetosphere provides various forms of free energy that generate low-frequency surface waves. The source mechanism of this energy includes current-driven kinetic physical processes such as magnetic reconnection on the dayside magnetopause and flux transfer events drifting along the magnetopause, and velocity shear-driven (Kelvin-Helmholtz instability) or density/pressure gradient-driven (Rayleigh-Taylor instability) magnetohydro-dynamics (MHD) instabilities. The solar wind external perturbations (impulsive transient pressure pulses or quasi-periodic dynamic pressure variations) act as seed fluctuations for the magnetopause waves and trigger ULF pulsations inside the magnetosphere via global modes or mode conversion at the magnetopause. The magnetopause waves thus play an important role in the solar wind-magnetosphere coupling, which is the key to space weather. This paper presents recent findings regarding the generation of surface waves (e.g., Kelvin-Helmholtz waves) at the Earth’s magnetopause and analytic and observational studies accountable for the linking of the magnetopause waves and inner magnetospheric ULF pulsations, and the impacts of magnetopause waves on the dynamics of the magnetopause and on the inner magnetosphere.


  • KEYWORD

    magnetopause , Kelvin-Helmholtz waves , reconnection , ULF waves

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  • [Fig. 1.] (a) THEMIS and Cluster configuration on May 25, 2009. (b) THEMIS-P2 observation of the magnetopause Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. (c) Simultaneous THEMIS-P5 observation of waveform and power spectra of electric and magnetic fields transformed to the mean field-aligned coordinate system in the inner magnetosphere. Er exhibits stronger narrow-band wave power (with harmonics) than does Eφ, and there is a 90° phase difference between Er and Bφ, indicating a toroidal-mode ULF structure. Corresponding low-energy plasma injection with density fluctuations is observed.
    (a) THEMIS and Cluster configuration on May 25, 2009. (b) THEMIS-P2 observation of the magnetopause Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. (c) Simultaneous THEMIS-P5 observation of waveform and power spectra of electric and magnetic fields transformed to the mean field-aligned coordinate system in the inner magnetosphere. Er exhibits stronger narrow-band wave power (with harmonics) than does Eφ, and there is a 90° phase difference between Er and Bφ, indicating a toroidal-mode ULF structure. Corresponding low-energy plasma injection with density fluctuations is observed.
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  • [Fig. 2.] The first in-situ observation of highly-developed (formed as a vortical structure; see the bottom illustration) Kelvin-Helmholtz waves when the IMF is southward, i.e., oppositely aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field. The Cluster spacecraft detected both highly-developed Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices and lessdeveloped Kelvin-Helmholtz surface wave consecutively at the dawn-side (westward) flank of the night-side magnetospause during southward IMF conditions (Hwang et al. 2011): (a) the z-component of the magnetic field, (b) the electron energy spectrogram, (c) the electron pitch angle spectrogram, (d) the ion energy spectrogram, (e) plasma density, and (f) temperature. The repeated variations in these physical parameters indicate that the spacecraft passed by two different regions quasi-periodically. Kelvin-Helmholtz waves propagating along the magnetopause explain this periodicity well. The trajectory of the spacecraft, ‘C1’, relative to the Kelvin-Helmholtz wave structure is shown at the bottom of the figure. Seven sequential structures correspond to seven divisions separated by magenta vertical lines in the upper plot.
    The first in-situ observation of highly-developed (formed as a vortical structure; see the bottom illustration) Kelvin-Helmholtz waves when the IMF is southward, i.e., oppositely aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field. The Cluster spacecraft detected both highly-developed Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices and lessdeveloped Kelvin-Helmholtz surface wave consecutively at the dawn-side (westward) flank of the night-side magnetospause during southward IMF conditions (Hwang et al. 2011): (a) the z-component of the magnetic field, (b) the electron energy spectrogram, (c) the electron pitch angle spectrogram, (d) the ion energy spectrogram, (e) plasma density, and (f) temperature. The repeated variations in these physical parameters indicate that the spacecraft passed by two different regions quasi-periodically. Kelvin-Helmholtz waves propagating along the magnetopause explain this periodicity well. The trajectory of the spacecraft, ‘C1’, relative to the Kelvin-Helmholtz wave structure is shown at the bottom of the figure. Seven sequential structures correspond to seven divisions separated by magenta vertical lines in the upper plot.
  • [Fig. 3.] MHD simulations of dayside dynamics (Kuznetsova et al. 2008). Under southward IMF, Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices are well developed along the magnetopause (A), but they quickly become unstable to fluctuations that originate from the subsolar magnetopause, such as flux transfer events (FTEs) drifting along the flank of the downtail magnetopause (B).
    MHD simulations of dayside dynamics (Kuznetsova et al. 2008). Under southward IMF, Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices are well developed along the magnetopause (A), but they quickly become unstable to fluctuations that originate from the subsolar magnetopause, such as flux transfer events (FTEs) drifting along the flank of the downtail magnetopause (B).
  • [Fig. 4.] From Hwang et al. (2012). Illustrations of topologies of the magnetopause during (A) dawnward and (B) sunward IMF orientations for Cluster observations of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves on January 12, 2003. The IMF orientations are shown as red arrows and the regions of parallel or anti-parallel alignments between the IMF and Earth’s magnetospheric fields are marked by red shading. A slashed region indicates where Kelvin-Helmholtz waves preferentially occur on the surface of the magnetopause. The observed propagations of the Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are marked by green and blue (the low- and high-frequency modes, respectively, during westward IMF), and green (during radial IMF) arrows. Note that the magnetic configuration across the boundary layer near the northern duskward magnetopause during dawnward IMF is similar to that at the dayside flank magnetopause under northward IMF in that the magnetosheath and magnetospheric fields across the boundary layer are parallel, and both are perpendicular to the tailward propagation of the waves. This event suggests that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves can be generated and developed not only when the IMF is northward but also when the IMF is aligned with the dawn/duskward (A) and even sunward (B) directions.
    From Hwang et al. (2012). Illustrations of topologies of the magnetopause during (A) dawnward and (B) sunward IMF orientations for Cluster observations of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves on January 12, 2003. The IMF orientations are shown as red arrows and the regions of parallel or anti-parallel alignments between the IMF and Earth’s magnetospheric fields are marked by red shading. A slashed region indicates where Kelvin-Helmholtz waves preferentially occur on the surface of the magnetopause. The observed propagations of the Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are marked by green and blue (the low- and high-frequency modes, respectively, during westward IMF), and green (during radial IMF) arrows. Note that the magnetic configuration across the boundary layer near the northern duskward magnetopause during dawnward IMF is similar to that at the dayside flank magnetopause under northward IMF in that the magnetosheath and magnetospheric fields across the boundary layer are parallel, and both are perpendicular to the tailward propagation of the waves. This event suggests that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves can be generated and developed not only when the IMF is northward but also when the IMF is aligned with the dawn/duskward (A) and even sunward (B) directions.