The Impenetrable Barrier Revisited – Anthroprogenic Effects on Earth’s Radiation Belts
Abstract:The Van Allen Probes are contributing significantly to the understanding of processes effecting Earth’s radiation belts. It has been noted that the earthward extent of the outer zone highly-relativistic electrons encounters a nearly impenetrable barrier at a radial distance (L) near 2.8 RE inside of which they are not observed. Modeling suggests that this is the result of a balance between slow inward diffusion and hiss-induced precipitation.
The large storm of 17 March 2015 afforded an excellent opportunity to investigate the impenetrable barrier using the full complement of sensors carried by the Van Allen Probes. The storm was marked by the rapid reappearance of strong fluxes of MeV electrons directly outside the barrier with the formation of very steep MeV flux gradients. In spite of the strong rapid recovery of MeV electron fluxes immediately outside the barrier, the sharpness and constancy of the gradient at the barrier is strongly suggestive of a previously unrecognized fast-acting and spatially localized mechanism responsible for the formation of such a well-defined feature during these dramatic circumstances.
The Van Allen Probes regularly observe a magnetically confined bubble of VLF emissions of terrestrial origin filling the inner magnetosphere. Strongest signals are from US Navy VLF transmitters used for one-way communication to submarines. These signals largely are confined to the region of L space where their frequency is < ½ fce. The strong signal from station NAA at 24 kHz is confined to L < 2.8 where it encounters the ½ fce limit. During the event, the flux of MeV electrons decreased by 1000x across 0.5 RE outside L = 2.8 simultaneous with a 6 order of magnitude increase in the VLF wave intensity as the Probes entered the VLF bubble.
The VLF transmitter frequencies are amplified at the point where they overlap natural chorus band near ½ fce suggestive of transmitter-induced triggered emissions. MeV radiation belt electrons encounter this greatly increased 25 kHz wave power of anthropogenic origin nearly continuously at the location of impenetrable barrier. We suggest that interactions of these amplified transmitter signals with the MeV electrons accelerate their scattering into the drift loss cone such that an impenetrable barrier to further inward penetration is created.