Time evolution of electric fields and currents and the generalized Ohm's law
- Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
Abstract. Fundamentally, the time derivative of the electric field is given by the displacement-current term in Maxwell's generalization of Ampère's law, and the time derivative of the electric current density is given by the generalized Ohm's law. The latter is derived by summing the accelerations of all the plasma particles and can be written exactly, with no approximations, in a (relatively simple) primitive form containing no other time derivatives. When one is dealing with time scales long compared to the inverse of the electron plasma frequency and spatial scales large compared to the electron inertial length, however, the time derivative of the current density becomes negligible in comparison to the other terms in the generalized Ohm's law, which then becomes the equation that determines the electric field itself. Thus, on all scales larger than those of electron plasma oscillations, neither the time evolution of J nor that of E can be calculated directly. Instead, J is determined by B through Ampère's law and E by plasma dynamics through the generalized Ohm's law. The displacement current may still be non-negligible if the Alfvén speed is comparable to or larger than the speed of light, but it no longer determines the time evolution of E, acting instead to modify J. For theories of substorms, this implies that, on time scales appropriate to substorm expansion, there is no equation from which the time evolution of the current could be calculated, independently of ∇xB. Statements about change (disruption, diversion, wedge formation, etc.) of the electric current are merely descriptions of change in the magnetic field and are not explanations.