• Plasma dynamics of the Earth magnetopause-boundary layer and its coupling to the polar ionosphere

      Wei, Chang-Quan; Lee, Lou-Chuang; Deehr, C. S.; Swift, D. W.; Tape, W. R.; Watkins, B. J. (1991)
      In this thesis, the plasma dynamics of the Earth magnetopause-boundary layer and its coupling to the polar ionosphere are studied by using computer simulations. First, the plasma dynamics and structure of the magnetopause-boundary layer are studied by a two-dimensional incompressible magnetohydrodynamic simulation code. It is found that the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability with driven boundary conditions at the magnetopause can lead to the formation of plasma vortices observed in the magnetopause-boundary layer. In the later stage of development, a density plateau is formed in the central part of the boundary layer. Second, the coupling of plasma vortices formed in the boundary layer to the polar ionosphere is studied based on a magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling model. The finite ionospheric conductivity provides a dragging force to the plasma flow and leads to the decay of plasma vortices in the boundary layer. In the model, the ionospheric conductivity is allowed to be enhanced due to accelerated electrons precipitating in upward field-aligned current regions. The competing effect of the formation and decay of vortices leads to the formation of strong vortices only in limited regions. Several enhanced conductivity regions are formed along the post-noon auroral oval, which may account for the observed auroral bright spots. In addition, the evolution of localized plasma vortices, as well as magnetic flux ropes, along magnetic field lines is studied. The evolution leads to the generation of large-amplitude Alfven waves, which carry field-aligned currents and provide the link for the coupling of plasma vortices and magnetic flux ropes in the magnetosphere to the polar ionosphere.