Kinetic Alfven Waves Carrying Intense Field Aligned Currents: Particle Trapping and Electron Acceleration
Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 09:00
2016 (Moscone West)
It is now common knowledge that dispersive scale Alfvén waves can drive parallel electron acceleration [Lotko et al., JGR, 1998; Samson et al., Ann. Geophys., 2003; Wygant et al., JGR, 2002] and transverse ion energization in the auroral zone and inner magnetosphere [Johnson and Cheng, JGR, 2001; Chaston et al., 2004]. In this paper we show that relatively low energy electrons (plasma sheet electrons with energies ranging up to ∼100 eV) can be accelerated very efficiently as they interact nonlinearly with kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) that carry intense field aligned currents from the equatorial plane toward the ionosphere in the inner magnetosphere. We propose a theoretical model describing electron trapping into an effective wave potential generated by parallel wave electric fields (with perpendicular wavelengths on the order of the ion gyro-radius) and the mirror force acting on electrons as they propagate along geomagnetic field lines. We demonstrate that waves with an electric potential amplitude between ~100 − 400 V can trap and accelerate electrons to energies approaching several keVs. Trapping acceleration corresponds to conservation of the electron magnetic moment and, thus, results in a significant decrease of the electron equatorial pitch-angle with time. Analytical and numerical estimates of the maximum energy and probability of trapping are presented. We discuss the application of the proposed model in light of recent observations of electromagnetic fluctuations in the inner magnetosphere that are present during periods of strong geomagnetic activity [Chaston et al., GRL, 2014; Califf et al., JGR, 2015].