Signatures of complex magnetic topologies from multiple reconnection sites induced by Kelvin-Helmholtz instability


The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission has demonstrated the frequent presence of reconnection exhausts at thin current sheets within Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) waves at the flank magnetopause. Motivated by these recent observations, we performed a statistical analysis of the boundary layers on the magnetosheath side of all KH current sheets on 8 September 2015. We show 86% consistency between the exhaust flows and particle leakage in the magnetosheath boundary layers but further highlight the very frequent presence of additional boundary layer signatures that do not come from the locally observed reconnection exhausts. These additional electron and ion boundary layers, of various durations and at various positions with respect to the leading and trailing boundaries of the KH waves, signal connections to reconnection sites at other locations. Based on the directionality and extent of these layers, we provide an interpretation whereby complex magnetic topologies can arise within KH waves from the combination of reconnection in the equatorial plane and at midlatitudes in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, where additional reconnection sites are expected to be triggered by the three-dimensional field lines interweaving induced by the KH waves at the flanks (owing to differential flow and magnetic field shear with latitude). The present event demonstrates that the three-dimensional development of KH waves can induce plasma entry (through reconnection at both midlatitude and equatorial regions) already sunward of the terminator where the instability remains in its linear stage.

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JGR: Space Physics



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