Resonant Scattering of Radiation Belt Electrons by Off-Equatorial Magnetosonic Waves

Fast magnetosonic (MS) waves are commonly regarded as electromagnetic waves that are characteristically confined within \textpm3\textdegree of the geomagnetic equator. We report two typical off-equatorial MS events observed by Van Allen Probes, that is, the 8 May 2014 event that occurred at the geomagnetic latitudes of 7.5\textdegree\textendash9.2\textdegree both inside and outside the plasmasphere with the wave amplitude up to 590 pT and the 9 January 2014 event that occurred at the latitudes of\textemdash(15.7\textdegree\textendash17.5\textdegree) outside the plasmasphere with a smaller amplitude about 81 pT. Detailed test particle simulations quantify the electron resonant scattering rates by the off-equatorial MS waves to find that they can cause the pitch angle scattering and momentum diffusion of radiation belt electrons with equatorial pitch angles < ~75\textdegree or < ~58\textdegree (depending on the wave latitudinal coverage) on timescales of a day. Subsequent two-dimensional Fokker-Planck diffusion simulations indicate that the strong off-equatorial MS waves are capable of efficiently transporting high pitch angle electrons to lower pitch angles to facilitate the formation of radiation belt electron butterfly distributions for a broad energy range from ~100 keV to >1 MeV within an hour. Our study clearly demonstrates that the presence of off-equatorial MS waves, in addition to equatorial MS waves, can contribute importantly to the dynamical variations of radiation belt electron fluxes and their pitch angle distribution.
Year of Publication
Geophysical Research Letters
Number of Pages
Date Published