Modeling the Depletion and Recovery of the Outer Radiation Belt During a Geomagnetic Storm: Combined MHD and Test Particle Simulations

During geomagnetic storms the intensities of the outer radiation belt electron population can exhibit dramatic variability. Deep depletions in intensity during the main phase are followed by increases during the recovery phase, often to levels that significantly exceed their pre-storm values. To study these processes, we simulate the evolution of the outer radiation belt during the 17 March 2013 geomagnetic storm using our newly-developed radiation belt model (CHIMP) based on test particle and coupled 3D ring current and global MHD simulations, and driven solely with solar wind and F10.7 flux data. Our approach differs from previous work in that we use MHD information to identify regions of strong, bursty, and azimuthally localized Earthward convection in the magnetotail where test particles are then seeded. We validate our model using in situ Van Allen Probe electron intensities over a multi-day period and show that our model is able to reproduce meaningful qualitative and quantitative agreement. Analysis of our model enables us to study the processes that govern the transition from the pre- to post-storm outer belt. Our analysis demonstrates that during the early main phase of the storm the pre-existing outer belt is largely wiped out via magnetopause losses and subsequently a new outer belt is created during a handful of discrete, mesoscale injections. Finally, we demonstrate the potential importance of magnetic gradient trapping in the transport and energization of outer belt electrons using a controlled numerical experiment.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Date Published