Magnetic reconnection in 3D magnetosphere models: magnetic separators and open flux production

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 10:56 AM
Alex Glocer1, John Dorelli1, Gabor Toth2, Colin M Komar3 and Paul Cassak3, (1)NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)Univ Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (3)West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, United States
There are multiple competing definitions of magnetic reconnection in 3D (e.g., Hesse and Schindler [1988], Lau and Finn [1990], and Boozer [2002]). In this work we focus on separator reconnection. A magnetic separator can be understood as the 3D analogue of a 2D x line with a guide field, and is defined by the line corresponding to the intersection of the separatrix surfaces associated with the magnetic nulls. A separator in the magnetosphere represents the intersection of four distinct magnetic topologies: solar wind, closed, open connected to the northern hemisphere, and open connected to the southern hemisphere. The integral of the parallel electric field along the separator defines the rate of open flux production, and is one measure of the reconnection rate. We present three methods for locating magnetic separators and apply them to 3D resistive MHD simulations of the Earth’s magnetosphere using the BATS-R-US code. The techniques for finding separators and determining the reconnection rate are insensitive to IMF clock angle and can in principle be applied to any magnetospheric model. The present work examines cases of high and low resistivity, for two clock angles. We also examine the separator during Flux Transfer Events (FTEs) and Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.