• Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability And Magnetic Reconnection At The Earth's Magnetospheric Boundary

      Ma, Xuanye; Otto, Antonius; Lummerzheim, Dirk; Newman, David; Ng, Chung-Sang; Zhang, Hui (2012)
      Magnetic reconnection and Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability are the two most important mechanisms for plasma transport across the Earth's magnetospheric boundary layer. Magnetic reconnection is considered as the dominant process for southward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), and the KH instability is suggested to play an important role for northward IMF. It is interesting to note that this plasma entry is associated with a dramatic entropy increase, which indicates the existence of strong nonadiabatic heating during the entry process. Observations indicate a plasma entropy increase by two orders of magnitude during the transport from solar wind into the Earth's magnetosphere. Therefore, it is important to examine whether magnetic reconnection can provide sufficient nonadiabatic heating to explain the observed plasma properties and to identify plasma conditions that allow strong nonadiabatic heating. This thesis demonstrates that the entropy can indeed strongly increase during magnetic reconnection provided that the plasma beta, i.e., the ratio of thermal to magnetic energy density is small. A realistic three-dimensional configuration of the Earth's magnetopause for southward IMF conditions includes large anti-parallels magnetic components with a fast perpendicular shear flow. Thus, it is expected that KH modes and magnetic reconnection operate simultaneously and interact with each other. This thesis provides a systematic study on this interaction between reconnection and KH modes by means of three-dimensional MHD and Hall MHD numerical simulations. It is demonstrated that both reconnection and nonlinear KH waves change the other modes onset condition by changing the width of the transition layer. It is shown that dynamics of the system can be strongly modified by a guide field or Hall physics. In the presence of plasma flow, magnetic reconnection is also associated with the generation of field-aligned currents (FACs), which play a critical role in the coupling between the magnetosphere and ionosphere. This thesis also examines systematically the generation of FACs. It is demonstrated that such currents are generated either by a guide magnetic field, by shear flow, or by the inclusion of Hall physics already in two-dimensional magnetic reconnection.