Simulations of solar wind - magnetosheath - magnetopause interactions

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Title: Simulations of solar wind - magnetosheath - magnetopause interactions
Author: Hoilijoki, Sanni
Belongs to series: Finnish Meteorological Institute Contributions 132
ISSN: 0782-6117
ISBN: 978-952-336-019-8
Abstract: This thesis investigates interactions between solar wind and the magnetosphere of the Earth using two global magnetosphericsimulation models, GUMICS-4 and Vlasiator, which are both developed in Finland. The main topic of the thesis is magnetic reconnection at the dayside magnetopause, its drivers and global effects. Magnetosheath mirror mode waves and their evolution, identification and impacts on the local reconnection rates at the magnetopause are also discussed. This thesis consists of four peer-reviewed papers and an introductory part. GUMICS-4 is a magnetohydrodynamic model solving plasma as a single magnetized fluid. Vlasiator is the world’s first global magnetospheric hybrid-Vlasov simulation model, which solves the motion of ions by describing them as velocity distribution functions, whereas electrons are described as a charge neutralizing fluid. Vlasiator is able to solve ion scale physics in a global scale simulation. However, it is computationally heavy and the global simulations are currently describing Earth’s magnetosphere only in two spatial dimensions, whereas the velocity space is three dimensional. This thesis shows that magnetic reconnection at the dayside magnetopause is controlled by several factors. The impact of dipole tilt angle and sunward component of the interplanetary magnetic field on magnetopause reconnection is investigated with a set of GUMICS-4 simulations. Using Vlasiator simulations, this thesis shows that local reconnection rate is highly variable even during steady solar wind and correlates well with an analytical model for 2D asymmetric reconnection. It is also shown that the local reconnection rate is affected by local variations in the magnetosheath plasma. Fluctuations in the magnetosheath parameters near X-lines are partly generated by mirror mode waves that are observed to grow in the quasi-perpendicular magnetosheath. These results show that that the local reconnection rate at the X-lines is affected not only by the fluctuations in the inflow parameters but also by reconnection at nearby X-lines. Outflow from stronger X-lines pushes against the weaker ones and might ultimately suppress reconnection in the weaker X-lines. Magnetic islands, 2D representations of FTEs, form between X-lines in the Vlasiator simulations. FTEs propagate along the dayside magnetopause driving bow waves in the magnetosheath. The bow waves propagate upstream all the way to the bow shock causing bulges in the shock, from which solar wind particles can reflect back to the solar wind causing local foreshocks. The overall conclusion of this thesis is that the ion scale kinetic physics is important to accurately model the solar wind – magnetosheath – magnetopause interactions. Vlasiator results show a strong scale-coupling between ion and global scales: global scale phenomena have an impact on the local physics and the local phenomena may have unexpected impacts on the global dynamics of the magnetosphere. Neglecting the global scales in local ion scale simulations and vice versa may therefore lead to incomplete description of the solar wind – magnetosphere interactions.
Date: 2017-05
Subject: space plasma physics
numerical simulations

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