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Breakdown of the frozen-in condition in the Earth's magnetotail

Breakdown of the frozen-in condition in the Earth's magnetotail

Publication date: 29 April 2007

Authors: Lui, A.T.Y. et al.

Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 112
Issue: A4
Page: A04215
Year: 2007

Copyright: American Geophysical Union

We investigate in detail the breakdown of the frozen-in condition detected by Cluster at the downstream distance of ~19 RE in the midnight sector of the magnetotail during a substorm expansion on 22 August 2001. It is found that the breakdown occurred (1) in a low-density environment with moderate to large proton plasma flow and significant fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields, (2) in regions with predominantly dissipation but occasionally dynamo effect, and (3) at times simultaneously at two Cluster satellites separated by more than 1000 km in both X- and Z-directions. Evaluation of the terms in the generalized Ohm's law indicates that the anomalous resistivity contribution arising from field fluctuations during this event is the most significant, followed by the Hall, electron viscosity, and inertial contributions in descending order of importance. This result demonstrates for the first time from observations that anomalous resistivity from field fluctuations (implying kinetic instabilities) can play a substantial role in the breakdown of the frozen-in condition in the magnetotail during substorm expansions. Consideration of several observed features in the breakdown regions indicates that the breakdown occurs in a turbulent site resembling observed features found in current disruption and dipolarization sites.

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