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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 23, issue 4
Ann. Geophys., 23, 1391–1403, 2005
© Author(s) 2005. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 23, 1391–1403, 2005
© Author(s) 2005. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  03 Jun 2005

03 Jun 2005

Electric current and magnetic field geometry in flapping magnetotail current sheets

A. Runov1, V. A. Sergeev2, W. Baumjohann1, R. Nakamura1, S. Apatenkov2, Y. Asano1, M. Volwerk6,1, Z. Vörös1, T. L. Zhang1, A. Petrukovich3, A. Balogh4, J.-A. Sauvaud5, B. Klecker6, and H. Rème5 A. Runov et al.
  • 1Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-8042, Graz, Austria
  • 2St. Petersburg University, Russia
  • 3Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • 4Imperial College, London, UK
  • 5CESR, Toulouse, France
  • 6MPE, Garching, Germany

Abstract. Using four-point magnetic field measurements by the Cluster spacecraft, we statistically analyze the magnetic field and electric current configurations during rapid crossings of the current sheet observed in July-October 2001 at geocentric distances of 19 RE. The database includes 78 crossings, specially selected to apply multi-point data analysis techniques to calculate vector derivatives. Observed bipolar variations of jz, often with | jz |>jy, indicate that the electric currents follow kinks of the current sheet. The current density varies between 5-25nA/m2. The half-thickness of the current sheet during flapping varies over a wide range, from 1 to 20 ion thermal gyroradii (Lcp), calculated from average temperature and lobe magnetic field for each crossing). We found no relationship between the tilt angle of the current sheet normal and the half-thickness. In 68 cases the magnetic field curvature vector has a positive (earthward) X-component. Ten cases with a negative (tailward) curvature, associated with reconnection, were detected within 0<YGSM<7 RE. The minimum curvature radii vary mainly between 1 and 10 Lcp, and the adiabaticity parameter κ≤1 for 73% of the events. The electric current density during flapping is often off-central, i.e. the main current density is shifted from the neutral sheet (| Bx |<5nT) to the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. This is most likely a temporal effect related to the flapping. The analysis shows that the flapping motion of the current sheet is associated with kink-like waves on the sheet surface. The kink fronts, tilted in the Y-Z plane, moved toward dawn in the morning half and toward dusk in the evening half of the magnetotail.

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