Letter | Published:

Transport of solar wind into Earth's magnetosphere through rolled-up Kelvin–Helmholtz vortices

Nature volume 430, pages 755758 (12 August 2004) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Establishing the mechanisms by which the solar wind enters Earth's magnetosphere is one of the biggest goals of magnetospheric physics, as it forms the basis of space weather phenomena such as magnetic storms and aurorae1. It is generally believed that magnetic reconnection is the dominant process, especially during southward solar-wind magnetic field conditions when the solar-wind and geomagnetic fields are antiparallel at the low-latitude magnetopause2. But the plasma content in the outer magnetosphere increases during northward solar-wind magnetic field conditions3,4, contrary to expectation if reconnection is dominant. Here we show that during northward solar-wind magnetic field conditions—in the absence of active reconnection at low latitudes—there is a solar-wind transport mechanism associated with the nonlinear phase of the Kelvin–Helmholtz instability5. This can supply plasma sources for various space weather phenomena.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Energy coupling between the solar wind and the magnetosphere. Space Sci. Rev. 28, 121–190 (1981)

  2. 2.

    in Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Laboratory Plasmas (ed. Hones, E. W.) 375–378 (Geophys. Monograph 30, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 1984)

  3. 3.

    et al. An extended study of the low-latitude boundary layer on the dawn and dusk flanks of the magnetosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 7394–7404 (1987)

  4. 4.

    , , & Dense and stagnant ions in the low-latitude boundary region under northward interplanetary magnetic field. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L06802 (2004)

  5. 5.

    Hydrodynamic and Hydromagnetic Stability (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1961)

  6. 6.

    et al. Structure of the low-latitude boundary layer. J. Geophys. Res. 86, 2099–2110 (1981)

  7. 7.

    & Model of the formation of the low-latitude boundary-layer for strongly northward interplanetary magnetic-field. J. Geophys. Res. 97, 1411–1420 (1992)

  8. 8.

    et al. in Magnetospheric Plasma Sources and Losses Ch. 5 (ed. Hultqvist, B.) 207–283 (Space Sciences Series of ISSI 6, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1999)

  9. 9.

    Dungey, J. W. in Proc. Ionosphere Conf. 225 (Physical Society of London, 1955).

  10. 10.

    Anomalous transport by magnetohydrodynamic Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities in the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 801–818 (1984)

  11. 11.

    & Kinetic simulations of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at the magnetopause. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 11425–11438 (1993)

  12. 12.

    & Anomalous ion mixing within an MHD scale Kelvin-Helmholtz vortex. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 8601–8613 (1994)

  13. 13.

    The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability: Finite Larmor radius magnetohydrodynamics. Geophys. Res. Lett. 23, 2907–2910 (1996)

  14. 14.

    & Plasma transport at the magnetospheric boundary due to reconnection in Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices. Geophys. Res. Lett. 28, 3565–3568 (2001)

  15. 15.

    & Onset of turbulence induced by a Kelvin-Helmholtz vortex. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L02807 (2004)

  16. 16.

    , , & Decay of MHD-scale Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices mediated by parasitic electron dynamics. Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 145001 (2004)

  17. 17.

    & The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at the magnetopause and inner boundary layer surface. J. Geophys. Res. 94, 15113–15123 (1989)

  18. 18.

    & in Physics of the Magnetopause (eds Song, P., Sonnerup, B. U. Ö. & Thomsen, M. F.) 257–268 (Geophys. Monograph 90, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 1995)

  19. 19.

    et al. Further determination of the characteristics of magnetospheric plasma vortices. J. Geophys. Res. 86, 814–820 (1981)

  20. 20.

    et al. Geotail observations of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at the equatorial magnetotail boundary for parallel northward fields. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 21159–21173 (2000)

  21. 21.

    , & in Earth's Low-latitude Boundary Layer (eds Newell, P. T. & Onsager, T.) 241–251 (Geophys. Monograph 133, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 2003)

  22. 22.

    Dependence of the magnetopause Kelvin-Helmholtz instability on the orientation of the magnetosheath magnetic field. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 2993–2996 (1995)

  23. 23.

    Impulsive penetration of filamentary plasma elements into magnetospheres of Earth and Jupiter. Planet. Space Sci. 25, 887–890 (1977)

  24. 24.

    et al. Plasma acceleration at the Earth's magnetopause: Evidence for reconnection. Nature 282, 243–246 (1979)

  25. 25.

    et al. Extended magnetic reconnection at the Earth's magnetopause from detection of bi-directional jets. Nature 404, 848–850 (2000)

  26. 26.

    in Physics of the Magnetopause (eds Song, P., Sonnerup, B. U. Ö. & Thomsen, M. F.) 181–187 (Geophys. Monograph 90, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 1995)

  27. 27.

    et al. Evidence of high-latitude reconnection during northward IMF: Hawkeye observations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 23, 583–586 (1996)

  28. 28.

    & Nonlocal stability analysis of the MHD Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in a compressible plasma. J. Geophys. Res. 87, 7431–7444 (1982)

  29. 29.

    Report of the NASA Science and Technology Definition Team for the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission (NASA/TM-2000-209883, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, 1999).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are indebted to the Cluster team for the design and successful operation of the Cluster II mission. Part of this work was done while H.H. visited UC Berkeley.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755-8000, USA

    • H. Hasegawa
  2. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Meguro, Tokyo 152-8551, Japan

    • M. Fujimoto
    • , C. Hashimoto
    •  & R. TanDokoro
  3. Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-7540, USA

    • T.-D. Phan
  4. Centre d'Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, BP 4346, Toulouse 31029, France

    • H. Rème
  5. Space and Atmospheric Physics Group, Imperial College, London SW7 2BZ, UK

    • A. Balogh
  6. Space Sciences Division, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0QX, UK

    • M. W. Dunlop

Authors

  1. Search for H. Hasegawa in:

  2. Search for M. Fujimoto in:

  3. Search for T.-D. Phan in:

  4. Search for H. Rème in:

  5. Search for A. Balogh in:

  6. Search for M. W. Dunlop in:

  7. Search for C. Hashimoto in:

  8. Search for R. TanDokoro in:

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to H. Hasegawa.

Supplementary information

Word documents

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Figure

    Relation between the x components of the ion bulk velocity and of the local Alfvén velocity during the observation of the vortices, indicating the absence of local reconnection near the vortices.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02799

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.