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On the Formation of Phantom Electron Phase Space Density Peaks in Single Spacecraft Radiation Belt Data

Abstract This paper examines the rapid losses and acceleration of trapped relativistic and ultrarelativistic electron populations in the Van Allen radiation belt during the September 7-9, 2017, geomagnetic storm. By analyzing the dynamics of the last closed drift shell (LCDS) and the electron flux and phase space density (PSD), we show that the electron dropouts are consistent with magnetopause shadowing and outward radial diffusion to the compressed LCDS. During the recovery phase an in-bound pass of Van Allen Probe A shows an apparent local peak in PSD, but which does not exist. A careful analysis of the multipoint measurements by the Van Allen Probes reveals instead how the apparent PSD peak arises from aliasing monotonic PSD profiles which are rapidly increasing due to acceleration from very fast inwards radial diffusion. In the absence of such multi-satellite conjunctions during fast acceleration events, such peaks might otherwise be associated with local acceleration processes.

Olifer, L.; Mann, I.; Ozeke, L.; Morley, S.; Louis, H.;

Published by: Geophysical Research Letters      Published on: 05/2021

YEAR: 2021     DOI:

Van Allen Probes; magnetopause shadowing; ULF wave radial diffusion; electron phase space density


On the loss mechanisms of radiation belt electron dropouts during the 12 September 2014 geomagnetic storm

Radiation belt electron dropouts indicate electron flux decay to the background level during geomagnetic storms, which is commonly attributed to the effects of wave-induced pitch angle scattering and magnetopause shadowing. To investigate the loss mechanisms of radiation belt electron dropouts triggered by a solar wind dynamic pressure pulse event on 12 September 2014, we comprehensively analyzed the particle and wave measurements from Van Allen Probes. The dropout event was divided into three periods: before the storm, the initial phase of the storm, and the main phase of the storm. The electron pitch angle distributions (PADs) and electron flux dropouts during the initial and main phases of this storm were investigated, and the evolution of the radial profile of electron phase space density (PSD) and the (μ, K) dependence of electron PSD dropouts (where μ, K, and L* are the three adiabatic invariants) were analyzed. The energy-independent decay of electrons at L > 4.5 was accompanied by butterfly PADs, suggesting that the magnetopause shadowing process may be the major loss mechanism during the initial phase of the storm at L > 4.5. The features of electron dropouts and 90°-peaked PADs were observed only for >1 MeV electrons at L < 4, indicating that the wave-induced scattering effect may dominate the electron loss processes at the lower L-shell during the main phase of the storm. Evaluations of the (μ, K) dependence of electron PSD drops and calculations of the minimum electron resonant energies of H+-band electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves support the scenario that the observed PSD drop peaks around L* = 3.9 may be caused mainly by the scattering of EMIC waves, whereas the drop peaks around L* = 4.6 may result from a combination of EMIC wave scattering and outward radial diffusion.

Ma, Xin; Xiang, Zheng; Ni, Binbin; Fu, Song; Cao, Xing; Hua, Man; Guo, DeYu; Guo, YingJie; Gu, Xudong; Liu, ZeYuan; Zhu, Qi;

Published by: Earth and Planetary Physics      Published on: 11/2020

YEAR: 2020     DOI:

radiation belt electron flux dropouts; Geomagnetic storm; electron phase space density; magnetopause shadowing; wave–particle interactions; Van Allen Probes