Articles | Volume 24, issue 6
03 Jul 2006
 | 03 Jul 2006

Simulation of the interchange instability in a magnetospheric substorm site

O. V. Mingalev, I. V. Golovchanskaya, and Y. P. Maltsev

Abstract. We perform modeling of the interchange instability driven by longitudinal pressure asymmetry in the region of the pressure buildup that forms in the inner magnetosphere at the substorm growth phase. The simulation refers to the dawnward side of the Harang discontinuity and times after Bz IMF turning northward. The solution for the equilibrium state indicates tailward flows associated with vortices, which is in agreement with a previous finding of Ashour-Abdalla et al. (1999, 2002). We show that in the regions of equilibrium field-aligned currents (FACs), small initial perturbations in pVγ (p is the isotropic plasma pressure, V is the unit magnetic flux tube volume, γ=5/3 the adiabatic exponent), set up as ripples inclined to azimuth, grow in time. For the background FAC of ~10-6 A/m2, the linear growth rate of the instability is ~6 min. Starting from the 12th min of evolution, the perturbations exhibit nonlinear deformations, develop undulations and front steepening. An interesting peculiarity in the distribution of the associated small-scale FACs is that they become asymmetric with time. Specifically, the downward currents are more localised, reaching densities up to 15×10-6 A/m2 at the nonlinear stage. The upward FACs are more dispersed. When large enough, these currents are likely to produce the aurora. We also run our simulation for the initial perturbations of large transverse scales in order to demonstrate that the interchange instability can be responsible for pressure and cross-tail current spatial variations of great extent.