Ballooning instability in the presence of a plasma flow: A synthesis of tail reconnection and current disruption models for the initiation of substorms

ZY Pu*, KB Kang, A Korth, SY Fu, QG Zong, ZX Chen, MH Hong, ZX Liu, CG Mouikis, RWH Friedel, T. Pulkkinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The drift ballooning mode (DBM) instability near the inner edge of the plasma sheet (IEPS) is studied further by including a nonstationary earthward flow and flow shear in the analysis. Both equatorial and off-equatorial regions are considered. It is found that the presence of a decelerated earthward flow destabilizes both the M- and M+ branches of the DBM in a large portion of the current sheet near the IEPS and substantially increases the growth rate of the instability. The flow shear in the premidnight sector causes the conventional ballooning mode to weakly subside, while it slightly enhances the growth rate for the Alfvenic ballooning mode. The combination of the earthward flow and flow shear makes both the Alfvenic ballooning mode and conventional ballooning mode grow much faster than they would without the flow, giving rise to coupled alfvenic slow magnetosonic waves, field-aligned currents and the formation of a current wedge, a synthesis of tail reconnection and cross-tail current disruption scenarios is proposed for the substorm global initiation process: When the fast flow produced by magnetic reconnection in the midtail abruptly decelerates at the IEPS, it compresses the plasma populations earthward of the front, transports momentum to them, and pushes them farther earthward, This creates the configuration instability in a large portion of the inner tail magnetic field lines on both the tailward side and earthward side of the braking point.. As soon as the ionospheric conductance increases over a threshold level, the auroral electrojet is greatly intensified, which leads to the formation of the substorm current wedge and dipolarization of the magnetic field. This substorm paradigm combines the near-Earth neutral line and near-Earth current disruption scenarios for the initiation of substorms and may also synthesize dynamical processes in the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling and field line resonance during the substorm onset. We intend to use this global model to explain substorm expansion onsets occurring: under the southward interplanetary magnetic field condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10235-10248
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberA5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1999
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed




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