• Two- and three-dimensional study of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, magnetic reconnection and their mutual interaction at the magnetospheric boundary

      Chen, Qinxue; Otto, Antonius; Watkins, Brenton; Sentman, Davis; Smith, Roger (1997)
      Magnetic reconnection and the Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability regulate the transport of magnetic flux, plasma, momentum and energy from the solar wind into the magnetosphere. In this thesis, I use two-dimensional and three-dimensional MHD simulations to investigate the KH instability, magnetic reconnection, and their relationship. Two basic flow and magnetic field configurations are distinguished at the Earth's magnetopause: (1) configurations where the difference in plasma velocity between the two sides of the boundary $\Delta$v (velocity shear) is parallel to the difference of the magnetic field $\Delta$b (magnetic shear), and (2) configurations where the velocity shear is perpendicular to the magnetic shear. For configuration (1), either magnetic reconnection is modified by the shear flow, or the KH instability is modified by the magnetic shear and resistivity. The evolution of the basic configuration (2) requires three dimensions. In this case, both processes can operate simultaneously in different planes. If the KH instability grows faster initially, it can wrap up the current layer and thereby initiate a very fast and turbulent reconnection process. The resulting magnetic turbulence can provide the first explanation of often very turbulent structures of the magnetopause current layer. For the first time, it is quantitatively confirmed that the KH instability operates at the magnetospheric boundary at low latitudes.