Articles | Volume 20, issue 5
31 May 2002
 | 31 May 2002

ISEE-3 observations of a viscously-driven plasma sheet: magnetosheath mass and/or momentum transfer?

R. T. Mist and C. J. Owen

Abstract. A statistical analysis of data from the ISEE-3 distant tail campaign is presented. We investigate the mechanism driving slow, tailward flows observed in the plasma sheet. The possibility that these slow flows are driven by mass and/or momentum transfer across the distant tail magnetopause is explored. We establish that 40% of these flows could be driven by the transfer of approximately 4% of the magnetosheath momentum flux into the magnetotail. Current understanding of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability suggests that this figure is consistent with the amount of momentum flux transfer produced by this mechanism. We also consider the possibility that these flows are solely driven by transferring magnetosheath plasma across the magnetopause. We find that there is sufficient mass observed on these field lines for this to be the sole driving mechanism for only 27% of the observed slow flows.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetotail boundary layers; plasma convection; plasma sheet)