This study examines substorm-associated magnetic field fluctuations observed by the AMPTE/CCE and SCATHA satellites in the near-Earth tail. Three tail reconfiguration events are selected, one event on August 28, 1986, and two consecutive events on August 30, 1986. The fractal analysis was applied to magnetic field measurements of each satellite. The result indicates that (1) the amplitude of the fluctuation of the north-south magnetic component is larger, though not overwhelmingly, than the amplitudes of the other two components and (2) the magnetic fluctuations do have a characteristic timescale, which is several times the proton gyroperiod. In the examined events the satellite separation was less than 10 times the proton gyroradius. Nevertheless, the comparison between the AMPTE/CCE and SCATHA observations indicates that (3) there was a noticeable time delay between the onsets of the magnetic fluctuations at the two satellite positions, which is too long to ascribe to the propagation of a fast magnetosonic wave, and (4) the coherence of the magnetic fluctuations was low in the August 28, 1986, event and the fluctuations had different characteristic timescales in the first event of August 30, 1986, whereas some similarities can be found for the second event of August 30, 1986. Result 1 indicates that perturbation electric currents associated with the magnetic fluctuations tend to flow parallel to the tail current sheet and are presumably related to the reduction of the tail current intensity. Results 2 and 3 suggest that the excitation of the magnetic fluctuations and therefore the trigger of the tail current disruption is a kinetic process in which ions play an important role. It is inferred from results 3 and 4 that the characteristic spatial scale of the associated instability is of the order of the proton gyroradius or even shorter, and therefore the tail current disruption is described as a system of chaotic filamentary electric currents. However, result 4 suggests that the nature of the tail current disruption can vary from event to event.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics


American Geophysical Union

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Copyright 1998 by the American Geophysical Union.

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