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The first in situ observation of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves at high-latitude magnetopause during strongly dawnward interplanetary magnetic field conditions

The first in situ observation of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves at high-latitude magnetopause during strongly dawnward interplanetary magnetic field conditions

Publication date: 30 August 2012

Authors: K.-J. Hwang, et al.

Journal: J. Geophys. Res.
Volume: 117
Page: A08233
Year: 2012

Copyright: American Geophysical Union

We report the first in situ observation of high-latitude magnetopause (near the northern duskward cusp) Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (KHW) by Cluster on January 12, 2003, under strongly dawnward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. The fluctuations unstable to Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) are found to propagate mostly tailward, i.e., along the direction almost 90° to both the magnetosheath and geomagnetic fields, which lowers the threshold of the KHI. The magnetic configuration across the boundary layer near the northern duskward cusp region during dawnward IMF is similar to that in the low-latitude boundary layer under northward IMF, in that (1) both magnetosheath and magnetospheric fields across the local boundary layer constitute the lowest magnetic shear and (2) the tailward propagation of the KHW is perpendicular to both fields. Approximately 3-hour-long periods of the KHW during dawnward IMF are followed by the rapid expansion of the dayside magnetosphere associated with the passage of an IMF discontinuity that characterizes an abrupt change in IMF cone angle, phi = acos B x B , from -90° to -10°. Cluster, which was on its outbound trajectory, continued observing the boundary waves at the northern evening-side magnetopause during sunward IMF conditions following the passage of the IMF discontinuity. By comparing the signatures of boundary fluctuations before and after the IMF discontinuity, we report that the frequencies of the most unstable KH modes increased after the discontinuity passed. This result demonstrates that differences in IMF orientations (especially in phi) are associated with the properties of KHW at the high-latitude magnetopause due to variations in thickness of the boundary layer, and/or width of the KH-unstable band on the surface of the dayside magnetopause.

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