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  1. Abstract

    Relativistic electron precipitation to the Earth's atmosphere is an important loss mechanism of inner magnetosphere electrons, contributing significantly to the dynamics of the radiation belts. Such precipitation may be driven by electron resonant scattering by middle‐latitude whistler‐mode waves at dawn to noon; by electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves at dusk; or by curvature scattering at the isotropy boundary (at the inner edge of the electron plasma sheet anywhere on the nightside, from dusk to dawn). Using low‐altitude ELFIN and near‐equatorial THEMIS measurements, we report on a new type of relativistic electron precipitation that shares some properties with the traditional curvature scattering mechanism (occurring on the nightside and often having a clear energy/L‐shell dispersion). However, it is less common than the typical electron isotropy boundary and it is observed most often during substorms. It is seen equatorward of (and well separated from) the electron isotropy boundary and around or poleward of the ion isotropy boundary (the inner edge of the ion plasma sheet). It may be due to one or more of the following mechanisms: EMIC waves in the presence of a specific radial profile of the cold plasma density; a regional suppression of the magnetic field enhancing curvature scattering locally; and/or electron resonant scattering by kinetic Alfvén waves.

     
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  2. Abstract

    In the Earth's radiation belts, an upper limit on the electron flux is expected to be imposed by the Kennel‐Petschek mechanism, through the generation of exponentially more intense whistler‐mode waves as the trapped flux increases above this upper limit, leading to fast electron pitch‐angle diffusion and precipitation into the atmosphere. Here, we examine a different upper limit, corresponding to a dynamical equilibrium in the presence of energetic electron injections and both pitch‐angle and energy diffusion by whistler‐mode chorus waves. We first show that during sustained injections, the electron flux energy spectrum tends toward a steady‐state attractor resulting from combined chorus wave‐driven energy and pitch‐angle diffusion. We derive simple analytical expressions for this steady‐state energy spectrum in a wide parameter range, in agreement with simulations. Approximate analytical expressions for the corresponding equilibrium upper limit on the electron flux are provided as a function of the strength of energetic electron injections from the plasma sheet. The analytical steady‐state energy spectrum is also compared with maximum electron fluxes measured in the outer radiation belt during several geomagnetic storms with strong injections, showing a good agreement at 100–600 keV.

     
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  3. Relativistic electron scattering by electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves is one of the most effective mechanisms for >1 MeV electron flux depletion in the Earth's radiation belts. Resonant electron interaction with EMIC waves is traditionally described by quasi-linear diffusion equations, although spacecraft observations often report EMIC waves with intensities sufficiently large to trigger nonlinear resonant interaction with electrons. An important consequence of such nonlinear interaction is the resonance broadening effect due to high wave amplitudes. In this study, we quantify this resonance broadening effect in electron pitch-angle diffusion rates. We show that resonance broadening can significantly increase the pitch-angle range of EMIC-scattered electrons. This increase is especially important for ∼1 MeV electrons, where, without the resonance broadening, only those near the loss cone (with low fluxes) can resonate with EMIC waves.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Revealing the formation, dynamics, and contribution to plasma heating of magnetic field fluctuations in the solar wind is an important task for heliospheric physics and for a general plasma turbulence theory. Spacecraft observations in the solar wind are limited to spatially localized measurements, so that the evolution of fluctuation properties with solar wind propagation is mostly studied via statistical analyses of data sets collected by different spacecraft at various radial distances from the Sun. In this study we investigate the evolution of turbulence in the Earth’s magnetosheath, a plasma system sharing many properties with the solar wind. The near-Earth space environment is being explored by multiple spacecraft missions, which may allow us to trace the evolution of magnetosheath fluctuations with simultaneous measurements at different distances from their origin, the Earth’s bow shock. We compare ARTEMIS and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission measurements in the Earth magnetosheath and Parker Solar Probe measurements of the solar wind at different radial distances. The comparison is supported by three numerical simulations of the magnetosheath magnetic and plasma fluctuations: global hybrid simulation resolving ion kinetic and including effects of Earth’s dipole field and realistic bow shock, hybrid and Hall-MHD simulations in expanding boxes that mimic the magnetosheath volume expansion with the radial distance from the dayside bow shock. The comparison shows that the magnetosheath can be considered as a miniaturized version of the solar wind system with much stronger plasma thermal anisotropy and an almost equal amount of forward and backward propagating Alfvén waves. Thus, many processes, such as turbulence development and kinetic instability contributions to plasma heating, occurring on slow timescales and over large distances in the solar wind, occur more rapidly in the magnetosheath and can be investigated in detail by multiple near-Earth spacecraft.

     
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  5. Abstract

    We present analysis of 17,043 proton kinetic-scale current sheets (CSs) collected over 124 days of Wind spacecraft measurements in the solar wind at 11 samples s−1magnetic field resolution. The CSs have thickness,λ,from a few tens to one thousand kilometers with typical values around 100 km, or within about 0.1–10λpin terms of local proton inertial length,λp. We found that the current density is larger for smaller-scale CSs,J0≈ 6 nAm−2· (λ/100 km)−0.56, but does not statistically exceed a critical value,JA,corresponding to the drift between ions and electrons of local Alvén speed. The observed trend holds in normalized units:J0/JA0.17·(λ/λp)0.51. The CSs are statistically force-free with magnetic shear angle correlated with CS spatial scale:Δθ19°·(λ/λp)0.5. The observed correlations are consistent with local turbulence being the source of proton kinetic-scale CSs in the solar wind, while the mechanisms limiting the current density remain to be understood.

     
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  6. Abstract

    We present a data set and properties of 18,785 proton kinetic-scale current sheets collected over 124 days in the solar wind using magnetic field measurements at 1/11 s resolution aboard the Wind spacecraft. We show that all of the current sheets are in the parameter range where reconnection is not suppressed by diamagnetic drift of the X-line. We argue this necessary condition for magnetic reconnection is automatically satisfied due to the geometry of current sheets dictated by their source, which is the local plasma turbulence. The current sheets are shown to be elongated along the background magnetic field and dependence of the current sheet geometry on local plasma beta is revealed. We conclude that reconnection in the solar wind is not likely to be suppressed or controlled by the diamagnetic suppression condition.

     
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  7. Abstract

    Wave‐particle resonant interaction is a key process controlling energetic electron flux dynamics in the Earth's radiation belts. All existing radiation belt codes are Fokker‐Planck models relying on the quasi‐linear diffusion theory to describe the impact of wave‐particle interactions. However, in the outer radiation belt, spacecraft often detect waves sufficiently intense to interact resonantly with electrons in the nonlinear regime. In this study, we propose an approach for estimating and including the contribution of such nonlinear resonant interactions into diffusion‐based radiation belt models. We consider electron resonances with whistler‐mode wave‐packets responsible for injected plasma sheet (∼100 keV) electron acceleration to relativistic energies and/or for their precipitation into the atmosphere. Using statistics of chorus wave‐packet amplitudes and sizes (number of wave periods within one packet), we provide a rescaling factor for quasi‐linear diffusion rates, that accounts for the contribution of nonlinear interactions in long‐term electron flux dynamics. Such nonlinear effects may speed up 0.1–1 MeV electron diffusive acceleration by a factor of ×1.5–2 during disturbed periods. We discuss further applications of the proposed approach and the importance of nonlinear resonant interactions for long‐term radiation belt dynamics.

     
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  8. Abstract

    Electron diffusion by whistler‐mode chorus waves is one of the key processes controlling the dynamics of relativistic electron fluxes in the Earth's radiation belts. It is responsible for the acceleration of sub‐relativistic electrons injected from the plasma sheet to relativistic energies as well as for their precipitation and loss into the atmosphere. Based on analytical estimates of chorus wave‐driven quasi‐linear electron energy and pitch‐angle diffusion rates, we provide analytical steady‐state solutions to the corresponding Fokker‐Planck equation for the relativistic electron distribution and flux. The impact on these steady‐state solutions of additional electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves, and of ultralow frequency waves are examined. Such steady‐state solutions correspond to hard energy spectra at 1–4 MeV, dangerous for satellite electronics, and represent attractors for the system dynamics in the presence of sufficiently strong driving by continuous injections of 10–300 keV electrons. Therefore, these analytical steady‐state solutions provide a simple means for estimating the most extreme electron energy spectra potentially encountered in the outer radiation belt, despite the great variability of injections and plasma conditions. These analytical steady‐state solutions are compared with numerical simulations based on the full Fokker‐Planck equation and with relativistic electron flux spectra measured by satellites during one extreme event and three strong events of high time‐integrated geomagnetic activity, demonstrating a good agreement.

     
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