Articles | Volume 22, issue 12
22 Dec 2004
 | 22 Dec 2004

Plasma depletion layer: its dependence on solar wind conditions and the Earth dipole tilt

Y. L. Wang, J. Raeder, and C. T. Russell

Abstract. The plasma depletion layer (PDL) is a layer on the sunward side of the magnetopause with lower plasma density and higher magnetic field compared to their corresponding upstream magnetosheath values. It is believed that the PDL is controlled jointly by conditions in the solar wind plasma and the (IMF). In this study, we extend our former model PDL studies by systematically investigating the dependence of the PDL and the slow mode front on solar wind conditions using global MHD simulations. We first point out the difficulties for the depletion factor method and the plasma β method for defining the outer boundary of the plasma depletion layer. We propose to use the N/B ratio to define the PDL outer boundary, which can give the best description of flux tube depletion. We find a strong dependence of the magnetosheath environment on the solar wind magnetosonic Mach number. A difference between the stagnation point and the magnetopause derived from the open-closed magnetic field boundary is found. We also find a strong and complex dependence of the PDL and the slow mode front on the IMF Bz. A density structure right inside the subsolar magnetopause for higher IMF Bz;might be responsible for some of this dependence. Both the IMF tilt and clock angles are found to have little influence on the magnetosheath and the PDL structures. However, the IMF geometry has a much stronger influence on the slow mode fronts in the magnetosheath. Finally, the Earth dipole tilt is found to play a minor role for the magnetosheath geometry and the PDL along the Sun-Earth line. A complex slow mode front geometry is found for cases with different Earth dipole tilts. Comparisons between our results with those from some former studies are conducted, and consistencies and inconsistencies are found.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetosheath, solar wind-magnetosphere interactions) – Space plasma physics (numerical simulation studies)