The magnetic reconnection process plays an important role in the interaction between the solar wind and the magnetosphere. It leads to the transfer of energy from the solar wind into the magnetosphere. In this thesis, we study three-dimensional (3D) aspects of magnetic reconnection based on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations. First, we examine the magnetic field topology of magnetic flux ropes formed in multiple X line reconnection (MXR). It is found that the magnetic field topology depends on the relative extent and location of the two neighboring X lines. Magnetic flux ropes with either smooth or frayed ends are obtained in our simulations. For magnetic flux ropes with smooth ends, a major amount of magnetic flux is connected at each end to only one side of magnetopause. Second, the evolution of the core magnetic field in the magnetic flux tube is studied for various magnetic reconnection processes. We find that the 3D cases always lead to a larger enhancement of core field than the corresponding 2D cases since plasma can be squeezed out of the flux tube in the third direction. The MXR process gives rise to a larger increase of the core field than the single X line reconnection process. The core magnetic field can be enhanced to three times the ambient magnetic field strength in the 3D MXR process. Finally, we examine the generation and propagation of Alfven waves and field-aligned currents in the 3D reconnection process. For cases with a zero guide field, it is found that a large portion of the field-aligned currents ($\sim$40%) is located in the closed field line region. Both the pressure gradient term and inertia term contribute to the generation of field-aligned currents. For cases with nonzero guide field, one sense of field-aligned currents is dominant due to the presence of the initial field-aligned current. In these cases, the inertia term makes a major contribution to the redistribution of field-aligned currents. The influence of the initial guide field on the longitudinal shift of the current reversal site is found to be consistent with observations.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1994
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