Articles | Volume 23, issue 10
30 Nov 2005
 | 30 Nov 2005

Energy release and conversion by reconnection in the magnetotail

J. Birn and M. Hesse

Abstract. Magnetic reconnection is the crucial process in the release of magnetic energy previously stored in the magnetotail in association with substorms. However, energy transfer and dissipation in the vicinity of the reconnection site is only a minor part of the energy conversion. We discuss the energy release, transport, and conversion based on large-scale resistive MHD simulations of magnetotail dynamics and more localized full particle simulations of reconnection. We address in particular, where the energy is released, how it propagates and where and how it is converted from one form into another. We find that Joule (or ohmic) dissipation plays only a minor role in the overall energy transfer. Bulk kinetic energy, although locally significant in the outflow from the reconnection site, plays a more important role as mediator or catalyst in the transfer between magnetic and thermal energy. Generator regions with potential auroral consequences are located primarily off the equatorial plane in the boundary regions of the plasma sheet.