Articles | Volume 27, issue 11
04 Nov 2009
 | 04 Nov 2009

Occurrence and location of concentrated load and generator regions observed by Cluster in the plasma sheet

M. Hamrin, P. Norqvist, O. Marghitu, S. Buchert, B. Klecker, L. M. Kistler, and I. Dandouras

Abstract. Here, and in a companion paper by Hamrin et al. (2009) [Scale size and life time of energy conversion regions observed by Cluster in the plasma sheet], we investigate localized energy conversion regions (ECRs) in the Earth's plasma sheet. In total we have studied 151 ECRs within 660 h of plasma sheet data from the summer and fall of 2001 when Cluster was close to apogee at an altitude of about 15–20 RE. Cluster offers appropriate conditions for the investigation of energy conversion by the evaluation of the power density, E·J, where E is the electric field and J the current density. From the sign of the power density, we have identified more than three times as many Concentrated Load Regions (CLRs) as Concentrated Generator Regions (CGRs). We also note that the CLRs appear to be stronger. To our knowledge, these are the first in situ observations confirming the general notion of the plasma sheet, on the average, behaving as a load. At the same time the plasma sheet appears to be highly structured, with energy conversion occurring in both directions between the fields and the particles. From our data we also find that the CLRs appear to be located closer to the neutral sheet, while CGRs prefer locations towards the plasma sheet boundary layer (PSBL). For both CLRs and CGRs, E and J in the GSM y (cross-tail) direction dominate the total power density, even though the z contribution occasionally can be significant. The prevalence of the y-direction seems to be weaker for the CGRs, possibly related to a higher fluctuation level near the PSBL.