Effects in the Near-Magnetopause Magnetosheath Elicited by Large-Amplitude Alfvénic Fluctuations Terminating in a Field and Flow Discontinuity


In this paper we report on a sequence of large-amplitude Alfvénic fluctuations terminating in a field and flow discontinuity and their effects on electromagnetic fields and plasmas in the near-magnetopause magnetosheath. An arc-polarized structure in the magnetic field was observed by the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms-C in the solar wind, indicative of nonlinear Alfvén waves. It ends with a combined tangential discontinuity/vortex sheet, which is strongly inclined to the ecliptic plane and at which there is a sharp rise in the density and a drop in temperature. Several effects resulting from this structure were observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft in the magnetosheath close to the subsolar point (11:30 magnetic local time) and somewhat south of the geomagnetic equator (−33° magnetic latitude): (i) kinetic Alfvén waves; (ii) a peaking of the electric and magnetic field strengths where E·J becomes strong and negative (−1 nW/m3) just prior to an abrupt dropout of the fields; (iii) evolution in the pitch angle distribution of energetic (a few tens of kilo-electron-volts) ions (H+, Hen+, and On+) and electrons inside a high-density region, which we attribute to gyrosounding of the tangential discontinuity/vortex sheet structure passing by the spacecraft; (iv) field-aligned acceleration of ions and electrons that could be associated with localized magnetosheath reconnection inside the high-density region; and (v) variable and strong flow changes, which we argue to be unrelated to reconnection at partial magnetopause crossings and likely result from deflections of magnetosheath flow by a locally deformed, oscillating magnetopause.

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JGR: Space Physics



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