A three-dimensional, three-fluid simulation (ions, electrons, and neutrals) was explicitly parallelized, facilitating the study of small-scale magnetospheric-ionospheric (M-I) coupling processes. The model has ionization and recombination, self-consistently (semi-empirically) determined collision frequencies, and a height resolved ionosphere. Inclusion of ion inertial terms in the momentum equation enables the propagation of Alfven waves. Investigation at small scales required large system domains, and thus fast parallel computers. The model was explicitly parallelized---enabling investigations of M-I coupling processes on very small temporal and spatial scales. The generation, reflection, and propagation of Alfven waves is of importance to the understanding of M-1 coupling processes---it is, in fact, the primary means of communication of physical processes in the coupled system. Alfvenic reflections were modeled for two different boundary conditions, and it was shown that the deformation of the current layer was Alfvenic in character. Visualizations of the data obtained appear to be consistent with the visual characteristics of actual discrete aurora in nature. The model reproduces qualitatively, and semi-quantitatively, in a self-consistent manner, some the behaviors of the formation and time-evolution of discrete arcs. These include the narrowness of arcs; electric fields extending parallel outward from the arcs; and fast (plasma) flows in the region of discrete arcs. Large-scale models---due to inevitable limitations of computational resources---need to make large-scale averages of computed properties. In regions of active small-scale structure, significant under-representation of the Joule heating occurs. It has been shown that the under-representation of the Joule heating in the region of active aurora can be as large as a factor of 8. This work includes a computer-based study of a quantitative approximation of this underrepresentation of the Joule heating by global, large-scale models and experimental observations.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2012
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