Despite the claim that tail reconnection triggers substorm onset, there is an abundance of cases wherein substorm onset triggers tail reconnection. In such cases, the first observable precursor to onset is a periodic rippling (beads) along an equatorward auroral arc. In this study, through an example, we show that substorms arising out of arcs of this type have the classical “inside-out” evolution, including the triggering of tail reconnection as a possible result. We then investigate what the magnetospheric mode underlying the ripples along the arcs might be. The classical MHD ballooning invoked by some substorm theories is inconsistent with the observation, which exhibits a finite azimuthal wavelength comparable to the local ion gyroradius and the propensity of onset to occur under moderately high (1-10) rather than extremely high plasma β. We show that the onset is due to a modified ballooning mode, subject to corrections by the General Ohm's Law and ion heat flux. The net result is that the necessary condition for the instability remains unchanged from the classical MHD, but the growth rate of the instability is heavily attenuated or quenched in the high β and short azimuthal wavelength limits. In the actual magnetosphere, the mode has a wavelength ∼1,500 km, growth timescale ∼10 s, and critical plasma beta in the 3-13 range, all consistent with observations.
Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics)
- Pub Date:
- November 2012
- Magnetospheric Physics: Auroral phenomena (2407);
- Magnetospheric Physics: MHD waves and instabilities (2149;
- Magnetospheric Physics: Plasma sheet;
- Magnetospheric Physics: Substorms