On the cause of a magnetospheric flux transfer event
Lockwood, M. and Hapgood, M. A. (1998) On the cause of a magnetospheric flux transfer event. Journal of Geophysical Research, 103 (A11). pp. 26453-26478. ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/98JA02244
We present a detailed investigation of a magnetospheric flux transfer event (FTE) seen by the Active Magnetospheric Tracer Explorer (AMPTE) UKS and IRM satellites around 1046 UT on October 28, 1984. This event has been discussed many times previously in the literature and has been cited as support for a variety of theories of FTE formation. We make use of a model developed to reproduce ion precipitations seen in the cusp ionosphere. The analysis confirms that the FTE is well explained as a brief excursion into an open low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL), as predicted by two theories of magnetospheric FTEs: namely, that they are bulges in the open LLBL due to reconnection rate enhancements or that they are indentations of the magnetopause by magnetosheath pressure increases (but in the presence of ongoing steady reconnection). The indentation of the inner edge of the open LLBL that these two models seek to explain is found to be shallow for this event. The ion model reproduces the continuous evolution of the ion distribution function between the sheath-like population at the event center and the surrounding magnetospheric populations; it also provides an explanation of the high-pressure core of the event as comprising field lines that were reconnected considerably earlier than those that are draped over it to give the event boundary layer. The magnetopause transition parameter is used to isolate a field rotation on the boundaries of the core, which is subjected to the tangential stress balance test. The test identifies this to be a convecting structure, which is neither a rotational discontinuity (RD) nor a contact discontinuity, but could possibly be a slow shock. In addition, evidence for ion reflection off a weak RD on the magnetospheric side of this structure is found. The event structure is consistent in many ways with features predicted for the open LLBL by analytic MHD theories and by MHD and hybrid simulations. The de Hoffman-Teller velocity of the structure is significantly different from that of the magnetosheath flow, indicating that it is not an indentation caused by a high-pressure pulse in the sheath but is consistent with the motion of newly opened field lines (different from the sheath flow because of the magnetic tension force) deduced from the best fit to the ion data. However, we cannot here rule out the possibility that the sheath flow pattern has changed in the long interval between the two satellites observing the FTE and subsequently emerging into the magnetosheath; thus this test is not conclusive in this particular case. Analysis of the fitted elapsed time since reconnection shows that the core of the event was reconnected in one pulse and the event boundary layer was reconnected in a subsequent pulse. Between these two pulses is a period of very low (but nonzero) reconnection rate, which lasts about 14 mins. Thus the analysis supports, but does not definitively verify, the concept that the FTE is a partial passage into an open LLBL caused by a traveling bulge in that layer produced by a pulse in reconnection rate.