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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 27, issue 1
Ann. Geophys., 27, 395–405, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-27-395-2009
© Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Ninth International Conference on Substorms (ICS9)

Ann. Geophys., 27, 395–405, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-27-395-2009
© Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  23 Jan 2009

23 Jan 2009


A route to explosive large-scale magnetic reconnection in a super-ion-scale current sheet

K. G. Tanaka1, K. Haijima2, M. Fujimoto1, and I. Shinohara1 K. G. Tanaka et al.
  • 1Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Kanagawa, Japan
  • 2Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan

Abstract. How to trigger magnetic reconnection is one of the most interesting and important problems in space plasma physics. Recently, electron temperature anisotropy (αeo=Te⊥/Te||) at the center of a current sheet and non-local effect of the lower-hybrid drift instability (LHDI) that develops at the current sheet edges have attracted attention in this context. In addition to these effects, here we also study the effects of ion temperature anisotropy (αio=Ti⊥/Ti||). Electron anisotropy effects are known to be helpless in a current sheet whose thickness is of ion-scale. In this range of current sheet thickness, the LHDI effects are shown to weaken substantially with a small increase in thickness and the obtained saturation level is too low for a large-scale reconnection to be achieved. Then we investigate whether introduction of electron and ion temperature anisotropies in the initial stage would couple with the LHDI effects to revive quick triggering of large-scale reconnection in a super-ion-scale current sheet. The results are as follows. (1) The initial electron temperature anisotropy is consumed very quickly when a number of minuscule magnetic islands (each lateral length is 1.5~3 times the ion inertial length) form. These minuscule islands do not coalesce into a large-scale island to enable large-scale reconnection. (2) The subsequent LHDI effects disturb the current sheet filled with the small islands. This makes the triggering time scale to be accelerated substantially but does not enhance the saturation level of reconnected flux. (3) When the ion temperature anisotropy is added, it survives through the small island formation stage and makes even quicker triggering to happen when the LHDI effects set-in. Furthermore the saturation level is seen to be elevated by a factor of ~2 and large-scale reconnection is achieved only in this case. Comparison with two-dimensional simulations that exclude the LHDI effects confirms that the saturation level enhancement is due to the ion anisotropy effects, while the LHDI effects shorten the overall time scale significantly. The results imply that the ion temperature anisotropy is one of the key properties that enable large-scale magnetic reconnection to develop in a super-ion-scale current sheet.

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