Solar Extreme Events of 2003:
Fundamental Science and Applied Aspects

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Fast energy releases in the geomagnetic tail: fundamental role of thin current sheets
Kropotkin A.P., Domrin V.I.,

Global dynamics of the magnetosphere involves two fundamental features: (1) explosion-like loss of equilibrium - at the substorm onset; (2) fast dissipation of electromagnetic energy stored in the geomagnetic tail - at the expansion phase of a substorm. Both are associated with formation of an extremely thin current sheet (CS) as a result of a quasi-static evolution of the configuration at the growth phase: formation of a current density singularity in MHD models. Nonlinear small-scale plasma instability resulting in a catastrophe of equilibrium occurs at the near-earth edge of that CS, and is a trigger of a large-scale loss of equilibrium (1). Theory and simulation allow also to identify a process of SPONTANEOUS reconfiguration based on the features of nonlinear kinetic structures, either the slow collisionless shocks, or the specific Forced Kinetic Current Sheet (FKCS), with extremely anisotropic ion distributions. The process is independent of the triggering disturbance, and appears to be spontaneously self-sustained, as a finite magnitude MHD disturbance of a rarefaction wave type propagates back over the background plasma outside the CS. Large-scale transformation (2) of electromagnetic energy into the energy of plasma flows and heat takes place.

Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University, 2004