In previous work we used a semi-analytical treatment to describe accelerated magnetosheath flows caused by the draping of interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) lines around the magnetosphere. Here, we use the same approach, i.e., modeling the magnetic field lines as elastic strings, to examine how the magnetic tension force, one of the two agents responsible for producing these flows, varies along field lines away from the equatorial plane. The bend in the field line caused by the draping mechanism propagates as two oppositely-directed waves to higher latitudes. For a due northward IMF - the case we consider here - these propagate symmetrically north/south of the equatorial plane. As a result, a two-peaked latitude velocity profile develops as we go further downtail and the velocity peaks migrate along the magnetic field line to higher latitudes. We examine this velocity-profile for two Alfvén Mach numbers (MA = 8 and 3), representative of conditions in the solar wind at 1 AU (“normal” solar wind and solar transients). Qualitatively, the picture is the same but quantitatively there are important differences: (i) the flows reach higher values for the lower MA (maximum V/VSW = 1.6) than for the higher MA (V/VSW= 1.3); (ii) asymptotic values are reached farther downstream of the dawn-dusk terminator for the lowerMA (∼−50 RE vs −15 RE); (iii) For the lower MAthe highest speeds are reached away from the equatorial plane. We predict two channels of fast magnetosheath flow next to the magnetopause at off-equatorial latitudes that exceed the solar wind speed.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Geophysical Research Letters



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type



This is an article published by AGU in Geophysical Research Letters in 2012, available online: