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Bursty bulk flows and dipolarization in MHD simulations of magnetotail reconnection

Bursty bulk flows and dipolarization in MHD simulations of magnetotail reconnection

Publication date: 22 January 2011

Authors: Birn, J., et al.

Journal: Journal of Geophysical research
Volume: 116
Page: A01210
Year: 2011

Copyright: American Geophysical Union

Using three-dimensional MHD simulations of magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail, we investigate the fate of earthward bursty bulk flows (BBFs). The flow bursts are identified as entropy-depleted magnetic flux tubes ("bubbles") generated by the severance of a plasmoid via magnetic reconnection. The onset of fast reconnection coincides closely with a drastic entropy reduction at the onset of lobe reconnection. The fact that, in the simulation, the Alfvén speed does not change significantly at this time suggests that the destabilization of ballooning/interchange modes is important in driving faster reconnection as well as in providing cross-tail structure. In the initial phase, the BBFs are associated with earthward propagating dipolarization fronts. When the flow is stopped nearer to Earth, the region of dipolarization expands both azimuthally and tailward. Tailward flows are found to be associated with a rebound of the earthward flow and with reversed vortices on the outside of the flow. Earthward and tailward flows are also associated with expansion and contraction of the near plasma sheet. All of these features are consistent with recent satellite observations by Cluster and the Time History of Events and their Macroscopic Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission.

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