On the Acceleration Mechanism of Ultrarelativistic Electrons in the Center of the Outer Radiation Belt: A Statistical Study

Using energetic particle and wave measurements from the Van Allen Probes, Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES), and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), the acceleration mechanism of ultrarelativistic electrons (>3 MeV) in the center of the outer radiation belt is investigated statistically. A superposed epoch analysis is conducted using 19 storms, which caused flux enhancements of 1.8\textendash7.7 MeV electrons. The evolution of electron phase space density radial profile suggests an energy-dependent acceleration of ultrarelativistic electrons in the outer belt. Especially, for electrons with very high energies (~7 MeV), prevalent positive phase space density radial gradients support inward radial diffusion being responsible for electron acceleration in the center of the outer belt (L*~3\textendash5) during most enhancement events in the Van Allen Probes era. We propose a two-step acceleration process to explain the acceleration of ~7 MeV electrons in the outer belt: intense and sustained chorus waves locally energize core electron populations to ultrarelativistic energies at high L region beyond the Van Allen Probes\textquoteright apogee, followed by inward radial diffusion which further energizes these populations to even higher energies. Statistical results of chorus wave activity inferred from POES precipitating electron measurements as well as core electron populations observed by the Van Allen Probes and GOES support this hypothesis.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Date Published
ISSN Number