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Title: Coupling of the solar wind, magnetosphere and ionosphere by MHD waves
Author: Russell, Alexander J. B.
Awarding Body: University of St Andrews
Current Institution: University of St Andrews
Date of Award: 2010
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The solar wind, magnetosphere and ionosphere are coupled by magnetohydrodynamic waves, and this gives rise to new and often unexpected behaviours that cannot be produced by a single, isolated part of the system. This thesis examines two broad instances of coupling: field-line resonance (FLR) which couples fast and Alfvén waves, and magnetosphere-ionosphere (MI-) coupling via Alfvén waves. The first part of this thesis investigates field-line resonance for equilibria that vary in two dimensions perpendicular to the background magnetic field. This research confirms that our intuitive understanding of FLR from 1D is a good guide to events in 2D, and places 2D FLR onto a firm mathematical basis by systematic solution of the governing equations. It also reveals the new concept of ‘imprinting’ of spatial forms: spatial variations of the resonant Alfvén wave correlate strongly with the spatial form of the fast wave that drives the resonance. MI-coupling gives rise to ionosphere-magnetosphere (IM-) waves, and we have made a detailed analysis of these waves for a 1D sheet E-region. IM-waves are characterised by two quantities: a speed v_{IM} and an angular frequency ω_{IM} , for which we have obtained analytic expressions. For an ideal magnetosphere, IM-waves are advective and move in the direction of the electric field with speed v_{IM}. The advection speed is a non-linear expression that decreases with height-integrated E-region plasma-density, hence, wavepackets steepen on their trailing edge, rapidly accessing small length-scales through wavebreaking. Inclusion of electron inertial effects in the magnetosphere introduces dispersion to IM-waves. In the strongly inertial limit (wavelength λ << λ_{e} , where λ_{e} is the electron inertial length at the base of the magnetosphere), the group velocity of linear waves goes to zero, and the waves oscillate at ω_{IM} which is an upper limit on the angular frequency of IM-waves for any wavelength. Estimates of v_{IM} show that this speed can be a significant fraction (perhaps half) of the E_{⊥} × B_{0} drift in the E-region, producing speeds of up to several hundred metres per second. The upper limit on angular frequency, ωIM , is estimated to give periods from a few hundredths of a second to several minutes. IM-waves are damped by recombination and background ionisation, giving an e-folding decay time that can vary from tens of seconds to tens of minutes. We have also investigated the dynamics and steady-states that occur when the magnetosphere-ionosphere system is driven by large-scale Alfvénic field-aligned currents. Steady-states are dominated by two approximate solutions: an ‘upper’ solution that is valid in places where the E-region is a near perfect conductor, and a ‘lower’ solution that is valid where E-region depletion makes recombination negligible. These analytic solutions are extremely useful tools and the global steady-state can be constructed by matching these solutions across suitable boundary-layers. Furthermore, the upper solution reveals that E-region density cavities form and widen (with associated broadening of the magnetospheric downward current channel) if the downward current density exceeds the maximum current density that can be supplied by background E-region ionisation. We also supply expressions for the minimum E-region plasma-density and shortest length-scale in the steady-state. IM-waves and steady-states are extremely powerful tools for interpreting MI-dynamics. When an E-region density cavity widens through coupling to an ideal, single-fluid MHD magnetosphere, it does so by forming a discontinuity that steps between the upper and lower steady-states. This discontinuity acts as part of an ideal IM-wave and moves in the direction of the electric field at a speed U = \sqrt{v_{IM} {+} v_{IM} {-}}, which is the geometric mean of v_{IM} evaluated immediately to the left and right of the discontinuity. This widening speed is typically several hundreds of metres per second. If electron inertial effects are included in the magnetosphere, then the discontinuity is smoothed, and a series of undershoots and overshoots develops behind it. These undershoots and overshoots evolve as inertial IM-waves. Initially they are weakly inertial, with a wavelength of about λ_{e}, however, strong gradients of ω_{IM} cause IM-waves to phase-mix, making their wavelength inversely proportional to time. Therefore, the waves rapidly become strongly inertial and oscillate at ω_{IM}. The inertial IM-waves drive upgoing Alfvén waves in the magnetosphere, which populate a region over the downward current channel, close to its edge. In this manner, the E-region depletion mechanism, that we have detailed, creates small-scale Alfvén waves in large-scale current systems, with properties determined by MI-coupling.
Supervisor: Wright, Andrew N. Sponsor: This work was supported by an STFC postgraduate fellowship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Field-line resonance ; Resonant absorption ; MHD ; MHD waves ; Ionosphere ; Magnetosphere ; IM-waves ; Magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling ; Ionosphere-magnetosphere coupling ; Imprinting ; E-region ; Ionospheric depletion ; Alfven wave ; Inertial Alfven wave ; QC809.M35R8 ; Magnetosphere ; Ionosphere ; Solar wind ; Magnetohydrodynamic waves