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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.

Sorathia, K.; Ukhorskiy, A; Merkin, V.; Fennell, J.; Claudepierre, S.;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics      Published on: 06/2018

YEAR: 2018     DOI: 10.1029/2018JA025506

dropout; Geomagnetic storms; magnetopause loss; Radial Transport; Radiation belt; Van Allen Probes


Global Storm-Time Depletion of the Outer Electron Belt

The outer radiation belt consists of relativistic (>0.5 MeV) electrons trapped on closed trajectories around Earth where the magnetic field is nearly dipolar. During increased geomagnetic activity, electron intensities in the belt can vary by ordersof magnitude at different spatial and temporal scale. The main phase of geomagnetic storms often produces deep depletions of electron intensities over broad regions of the outer belt. Previous studies identified three possible processes that can contribute to the main-phase depletions: adiabatic inflation of electron drift orbits caused by the ring current growth, electron loss into the atmosphere, and electron escape through the magnetopause boundary. In this paper we investigate the relative importance of the adiabatic effect and magnetopause loss to the rapid depletion of the outer belt observed at the Van Allen Probes spacecraft during the main phase of March 17, 2013 storm. The intensities of >1 MeV electrons were depleted by more than an order of magnitude over the entire radial extent of the belt in less than 6 hours after the sudden storm commencement. For the analysis we used three-dimensional test-particle simulations of global evolution of the outer belt in the Tsyganenko-Sitnov (TS07D) magnetic field model with an inductive electric field. Comparison of the simulation results with electron measurements from the MagEIS experiment shows that magnetopause loss accounts for most of the observed depletion at L>5, while at lower L shells the depletion is adiabatic. Both magnetopause loss and the adiabatic effect are controlled by the change in global configuration of the magnetic field due to storm-time development of the ring current; a simulation of electron evolution without a ring current produces a much weaker depletion.

Ukhorskiy, A; Sitnov, M.; Millan, R.; Kress, B.; Fennell, J.; Claudepierre, S.; Barnes, R.;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics      Published on: 03/2015

YEAR: 2015     DOI: 10.1002/2014JA020645

dropout; Geomagnetic storms; magnetopause loss; Radial Transport; Radiation belt; ring current; Van Allen Probes