Dynamic Response of Magnetic Reconnection Due to Current Sheet Variability

Monday, 15 December 2014
Don E George1,2, Jörg-Micha Jahn3, James L Burch4, Michael Hesse5 and Craig J Pollock5, (1)University of Texas at San Antonio, Physics and Astronomy, San Antonio, TX, United States, (2)Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, United States, (3)Southwest Research Inst, San Antonio, TX, United States, (4)Southwest Research Institute San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, United States, (5)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Magnetic reconnection is a process which regulates the interaction between regions of magnetized plasma. While many factors have an impact on the evolution of this process, there still remains a lack of understanding of the key behaviors involved in the triggering of fast reconnection. Despite an abundance of in-situ measurements, indicating the high degree of variability in the thickness, density and composition along the current sheet, no simulation studies exist which account for such current sheet variations. 2D and 3D simulations have a periodic boundary in the dimension along the current sheet and so tend to neglect these variations in the current sheet originating external to the modeled reconnection region. Here we focus on the effects on reconnection due to the variability in the thickness and density of the current sheet. Using 2.5D kinetic simulations of 2-species plasma, we isolate and explore the dynamic effects on reconnection associated with variations in the current sheet originating externally to the reconnection region. While periodic boundary conditions are still used, in the direction along the current sheet, a step-change perturbation in thickness or density of the current sheet is introduced once a stable reconnection rate is reached. The dynamic response of the overall system, after introducing the perturbation, is then evaluated, with a focus on the reconnection rate. When the reconnection rate is slowed significantly over time, loading of the inflow region occurs (a build-up of plasma and magnetic energy/pressure. This state is indicated by an asymptotic behavior in the reconnection rate over time. If a sudden variation in the current sheet is introduced under these conditions, a resultant triggering of fast reconnection may occur, which could lead to an episode of fast reconnection, saw-tooth-crash condition or even act as a trigger for sub-storms.