Articles | Volume 31, issue 4
Ann. Geophys., 31, 639–646, 2013
Ann. Geophys., 31, 639–646, 2013

Regular paper 11 Apr 2013

Regular paper | 11 Apr 2013

Non-adiabatic electron behaviour due to short-scale electric field structures at collisionless shock waves

V. See, R. F. Cameron, and S. J. Schwartz V. See et al.
  • Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, London, SW7 2AZ, UK

Abstract. Under sufficiently high electric field gradients, electron behaviour within exactly perpendicular shocks is unstable to the so-called trajectory instability. We extend previous work paying special attention to short-scale, high-amplitude structures as observed within the electric field profile. Via test particle simulations, we show that such structures can cause the electron distribution to heat in a manner that violates conservation of the first adiabatic invariant. This is the case even if the overall shock width is larger than the upstream electron gyroradius. The spatial distance over which these structures occur therefore constitutes a new scale length relevant to the shock heating problem. Furthermore, we find that the spatial location of the short-scale structure is important in determining the total effect of non-adiabatic behaviour – a result that has not been previously noted.