Observational Test of the Dayside Magnetopause Reconnection Rate

Monday, 15 December 2014
Shan Wang, Lynn M Kistler and Christopher Mouikis, Univ New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
In asymmetric reconnection, the reconnection rate (R) is expected to follow the Cassak-Shay formula with an aspect ratio of around 0.1. At the magnetopause, reconnection is asymmetric, with the dense shocked solar wind population on the magnetosheath side, and a normally hot and tenuous population on the magnetospheric side. However, the hot magnetospheric population can contain a significant O+ component that increases the mass density, and the magnetospheric population may also include a cold dense population of plasmaspheric origin. We perform a statistical study of 13 magnetopause reconnection events observed by Cluster to determine how the reconnection rate depends on these different populations. The events are mainly at high latitudes, due to the Cluster orbit. Our results show that the measured R generally follows the Cassak-Shay prediction when all populations are included. However, the predicted rate only considering the magnetosheath contribution also correlates well with the measured R. For individual events, cold ions can make a comparable contribution to the magnetosheath H+ when there are plasmaspheric drainage plumes; the contribution of the magnetospheric hot O+ can be up to ~30%. However, the variation of solar wind conditions has a larger effect on the variation in the reconnection rate. The aspect ratio does not vary systematically with the O+ content, and 0.1 is a reasonable estimation. The outflow velocity is around the hybrid Alfven speed, but there is not a strong correlation. This may be due to motion of the x-line, or effects of the magnetosheath shear flow.