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Simulating the interplay between plasma transport, electric field, and magnetic field in the near-Earth nightside magnetosphere


The convection electric field resulting from the coupling of the Earth's magnetosphere with the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) drives plasma in the tail plasma sheet earthward. This transport and the resulting energy storage in the near Earth plasma sheet are important for setting up the conditions that lead to major space weather disturbances, such as storms and substorms. Penetration of plasma sheet particles into the near-Earth magnetosphere in response to enhanced convection is crucial to the development of the Region 2 field-aligned current system and large-scale magnetosphere-ionosphere (M-I) coupling, which results in the shielding of the convection electric field. In addition to the electric field, plasma transport is also strongly affected by the magnetic field, which is distinctly different from dipole field in the inner plasma sheet and changes with plasma pressure in maintaining force balance. The goal of this dissertation is to investigate how the plasma transport into the inner magnetosphere is affected by the interplay between plasma, electric field and magnetic field. For this purpose, we conduct simulations using the Rice Convection Model (RCM), which self-consistently calculates the electric field resulting from M-I coupling. In order to quantitatively evaluate the interplay, we improved the RCM simulations by establishing realistic plasma sheet particle sources, by incorporating it with a modified Dungey force balance magnetic field solver (RCM-Dungey runs), and by adopting more realistic electron loss rates. We found that plasma sheet particle sources strongly affect the shielding of the convection electric field, with a hotter and more tenuous plasma sheet resulting in less shielding than a colder and denser one and thus in more earthward penetration of the plasma sheet. The Harang reversal, which is closely associated with the shielding of the convection electric field and the earthward penetration of low-energy protons, is found to be located at lower latitudes and extend more dawnward for a hotter and more tenuous plasma sheet. In comparison with simulation runs under an empirical but not force balance magnetic field from the Tsyganenko 96 model, the simulation results show that transport under force-balanced magnetic field results in weaker pressure gradients and thus weaker R2 FAC in the near-earth region, weaker shielding of the penetration electric field and, as a result, more earthward penetration of plasma sheet protons and electrons with their inner edges being closer together and more azimuthally symmetric. To evaluate the effect of electron loss rate on ionospheric conductivity, a major contributing factor to M-I coupling, we run RCM-Dungey with a more realistic, MLT dependent electron loss rate established from observed wave activity. Comparing our results with those using a strong diffusion everywhere rate, we found that under the MLT dependent loss rate, the dawn-dusk asymmetry in the precipitating electron energy fluxes agrees better with statistical DMSP observations. The more realistic loss rate is much weaker than the strong diffusion limit in the inner magnetosphere. This allows high-energy electrons in the inner magnetosphere to remain much longer and produce substantial conductivity at lower latitudes. The higher conductivity at lower latitudes under the MLT dependent loss rate results in less efficient shielding in response to an enhanced convection electric field, and thus to deeper penetration of the ion plasma sheet into the inner magnetosphere than under the strong diffusion everywhere rate.

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