Conditions for substorm onset by the fast reconnection mechanism
- Research Center for Space and Cosmic Evolution, Ehime University, Matsuyama 790-8577, Japan
Abstract. The fast reconnection mechanism, involving slow shocks and Alfvénic fast plasma jets, is most responsible for the explosive conversion of magnetic energy associated with geomagnetic substorms and solar flares. In this paper, the spontaneous fast reconnection model is applied to well-known phenomena of substorms. When the east-west width of the tail current sheet becomes 3–4 times larger than its north-south thickness, the fast reconnection mechanism can fully be established, which may lead to substorm onset. The resulting Alfvénic jet can exactly explain, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the in-situ satellite observations of the traveling compression regions (TCRs) associated with large-scale plasmoids propagating down the tail. Also, the earthward fast reconnection jet causes drastic magnetic field dipolarization, so that the sheet current ahead of the magnetic loop of closed field lines suddenly turns its direction toward the loop footpoint and a large-scale current wedge is formed according to the growth of field-aligned currents. It is demonstrated that an MHD generator arises ahead of the magnetic loop and drives the current wedge to distinctly enhance the current density in a pair of thin layers of the loop footpoint, giving rise to drastic heating in the form of two ribbons.