Investigating the source of near-relativistic and relativistic electrons in Earth's inner radiation belt

TitleInvestigating the source of near-relativistic and relativistic electrons in Earth's inner radiation belt
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsTurner, DL, O'Brien, TP, Fennell, JF, Claudepierre, SG, Blake, JB, Jaynes, AN, Baker, DN, Kaneka, S, Gkioulidou, M, Henderson, MG, Reeves, GD
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Start Page695
Date Published01/2017
Keywordsenergetic particle injections; inner magnetosphere; Radiation belts; relativistic electrons; Van Allen Probes
AbstractUsing observations from NASA's Van Allen Probes, we study the role of sudden particle enhancements at low L shells (SPELLS) as a source of inner radiation belt electrons. SPELLS events are characterized by electron intensity enhancements of approximately an order of magnitude or more in less than 1 day at L < 3. During quiet and average geomagnetic conditions, the phase space density radial distributions for fixed first and second adiabatic invariants are peaked at 2 < L < 3 for electrons ranging in energy from ~50 keV to ~1 MeV, indicating that slow inward radial diffusion is not the dominant source of inner belt electrons under quiet/average conditions. During SPELLS events, the evolution of electron distributions reveals an enhancement of phase space density that can exceed 3 orders of magnitude in the slot region and continues into the inner radiation belt, which is evidence that these events are an important—and potentially dominant—source of inner belt electrons. Electron fluxes from September 2012 through February 2016 reveal that SPELLS occur frequently (~2.5/month at 200 keV), but the number of observed events decreases exponentially with increasing electron energy for ≥100 keV. After SPELLS events, the slot region reforms due to slow energy-dependent decay over several day time scales, consistent with losses due to interactions with plasmaspheric hiss. Combined, these results indicate that the peaked phase space density distributions in the inner electron radiation belt result from an “on/off,” geomagnetic-activity-dependent source from higher radial distances.

Page Last Modified: February 22, 2017