The storm time central plasma sheet
Abstract. The plasma sheet plays a key role during magnetic storms because it is the bottleneck through which large amounts of magnetic flux that have been eroded from the dayside magnetopause have to be returned to the dayside magnetosphere. Using about five years of Geotail data we studied the average properties of the near- and midtail central plasma sheet (CPS) in the 10–30 RE range during magnetic storms. The earthward flux transport rate is greatly enhanced during the storm main phase, but shows a significant earthward decrease. Hence, since the magnetic flux cannot be circulated at a sufficient rate, this leads to an average dipolarization of the central plasma sheet. An increase of the specific entropy of the CPS ion population by a factor of about two during the storm main phase provides evidence for nonadiabatic heating processes. The direction of flux transport during the main phase is consistent with the possible formation of a near-Earth neutral line beyond ~20 RE.
Key words. Magnetospheric physics (plasma convection; plasma sheet; storms and substorms)