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Substorm injection of relativistic electrons to geosynchronous orbit during the great magnetic storm of March 24, 1991

The great March 1991 magnetic storm and the immediately preceding solar energetic particle event (SEP) were among the largest observed during the past solar cycle, and have been the object of intense study. We investigate here, using data from eight satellites, the very large delayed buildup of relativistic electron flux in the outer zone during a 1.5-day period beginning 2 days after onset of the main phase of this storm. A notable feature of the March storm is the intense substorm activity throughout the period of the relativistic flux buildup, and the good correlation between some temporal features of the lower-energy substorm-injected electron flux and the relativistic electron flux at geosynchronous orbit. Velocity dispersion analysis of these fluxes between geosynchronous satellites near local midnight and local noon shows evidence that both classes of electrons arrive at geosynchronous nearly simultaneously within a few hours of local midnight. From this we conclude that for this storm period the substorm inductive electric field transports not only the usual (50\textendash300 keV) substorm electrons but also the relativistic (0.3 to several MeV) electrons to geosynchronous orbit. A simplified calculation of the electron ε \texttimes B and gradient/curvature drifts indicates that sufficiently strong substorm dipolarization inductive electric fields (≳ 10 mV/m) could achieve this, provided sufficient relativistic electrons are present in the source region. Consistent with this interpretation, we find that the injected relativistic electrons have a pitch angle distribution that is markedly peaked perpendicular to the magnetic field. Furthermore, the equatorial phase space density at geosynchronous orbit (L = 6.7) is greater than it is at GPS orbit at the equator (L = 4.2) throughout this buildup period, indicating that a source for the relativistic electrons lies outside geosynchronous orbit during this time. Earthward transport of the relativistic electrons by large substorm dipolarization fields, since it is unidirectional, would constitute a strong addition to the transport by radial diffusion and, when it occurs, could result in unusually strong relativistic fluxes, as is reported here for this magnetic storm.

Ingraham, J.; Cayton, T.; Belian, R.; Christensen, R.; Friedel, R.; Meier, M.; Reeves, G.; Takahashi, K;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research      Published on: 11/2001

YEAR: 2001     DOI: 10.1029/2000JA000458

Substorm Injections


Substorm electron injections: Geosynchronous observations and test particle simulations

We investigate electron acceleration and the flux increases associated with energetic electron injections on the basis of geosynchronous observations and test-electron orbits in the dynamic fields of a three-dimensional MHD simulation of neutral line formation and dipolarization in the magnetotail. This complements an earlier investigation of test protons [Birn et al., 1997b]. In the present paper we consider equatorial orbits only, using the gyrocenter drift approximation. It turns out that this approximation is valid for electrons prior to and during the flux rises observed in the near tail region of the model at all energies considered (\~ 100 eV to 1 MeV). The test particle model reproduces major observed characteristics: a fast flux rise, comparable to that of the ions, and the existence of five categories of dispersionless events, typical for observations at different local times. They consist of dispersionless injections of ions or electrons without accompanying injections of the other species, delayed electron injections and delayed ion injections, and simultaneous two-species injections. As postulated from observations [Birn et al., 1997a], these categories can be attributed to a dawn-dusk displacement of the ion and electron injection boundaries in combination with an earthward motion or expansion. The simulated electron injection region extends farther toward dusk at lower energies (say, below 40 keV) than at higher energies. This explains the existence of observed energetic ion injections that are accompanied by electron flux increases at the lower energies but not by an energetic electron injection at energies above 50 keV. The simulated distributions show that flux increases are limited in energy, as observed. The reason for this limitation and for the differences between the injection regions at different energies is the localization in the dawn-dusk direction of the tail collapse and the associated cross-tail electric field, in combination with a difference in the relative importance of E \texttimes B drift and gradient drifts at different energies. The results demonstrate that the collapsing field region earthward of the neutral line appears to be more significant than the neutral line itself for the acceleration of electrons, particularly for the initial rise of the fluxes and the injection boundary. This is similar to the result obtained for test ions [Birn et al., 1997b].

Birn, J.; Thomsen, M.; Borovsky, J.; Reeves, G.; McComas, D.; Belian, R.; Hesse, M.;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research      Published on: 05/1998

YEAR: 1998     DOI: 10.1029/97JA02635

Substorm Injections