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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 5
Ann. Geophys., 22, 1773–1786, 2004
© Author(s) 2004. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 22, 1773–1786, 2004
© Author(s) 2004. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  08 Apr 2004

08 Apr 2004

On the propagation of bubbles in the geomagnetic tail

J. Birn1, J. Raeder2,5, Y. L. Wang2,1, R. A. Wolf3, and M. Hesse4 J. Birn et al.
  • 1Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA
  • 2University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 3Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA
  • 4NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
  • 5University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA

Abstract. Using three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations, we investigate the propagation of low-entropy magnetic flux tubes ("bubbles") in the magnetotail. Our simulations address fundamental properties of the propagation and dynamics of such flux tubes rather than the actual formation process. We find that the early evolution, after a sudden reduction of pressure and entropy on a localized flux tube, is governed by re-establishing the balance of the total pressure in the dawn-dusk and north-south directions through compression on a time scale less than about 20s for the typical magnetotail. The compression returns the equatorial pressure to its original unperturbed value, due to the fact that the magnetic field contributes only little to the total pressure, while farther away from the equatorial plane the magnetic field compression dominates. As a consequence the pressure is no longer constant along a flux tube. The subsequent evolution is characterized by earthward propagation at speeds of the order of 200-400km/s, depending on the initial amount of depletion and the cross-tail extent of a bubble. Simple acceleration without depletion does not lead to significant earthward propagation. It hence seems that both the entropy reduction and the plasma acceleration play an important role in the generation of fast plasma flows and their propagation into the near tail. Earthward moving bubbles are found to be associated with field-aligned current systems, directed earthward on the dawnward edge and tailward on the duskward edge. This is consistent with current systems attributed to observed bursty bulk flows and their auroral effects.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetospheric configuration and dynamics; magnetotail; plasma sheet)nguage:

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