Chorus wave power at the strong diffusion limit overcomes electron losses due to strong diffusion

Earth’s radiation belts consist of high-energy charged particles trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. Strong pitch angle diffusion of electrons caused by wave-particle interaction in Earth’s radiation belts has primarily been considered as a loss process, as trapped electrons are rapidly diffused into the loss cone and lost to the atmosphere. However, the wave power necessary to produce strong diffusion should also produce rapid energy diffusion, and has not been considered in this context. Here we provide evidence of strong diffusion using satellite data. We use two-dimensional Fokker-Planck simulations of electron diffusion in pitch angle and energy to show that scaling up chorus wave power to the strong diffusion limit produces rapid acceleration of electrons, sufficient to outweigh the losses due to strong diffusion. The rate of losses saturates at the strong diffusion limit, whilst the rate of acceleration does not. This leads to the surprising result of an increase, not a decrease in the trapped electron population during strong diffusion due to chorus waves as expected when treating strong diffusion as a loss process. Our results suggest there is a tipping point in chorus wave power between net loss and net acceleration that global radiation belt models need to capture to better forecast hazardous radiation levels that damage satellites.


Publication status:
Authors: Daggitt, T.A. ORCIDORCID record for T.A. Daggitt, Horne, R.B. ORCIDORCID record for R.B. Horne, Glauert, S.A. ORCIDORCID record for S.A. Glauert, Del Zanna, G., Albert, J.M.

On this site: Richard Horne, Sarah Glauert, Thomas Daggitt
27 February, 2024
Nature Communications / 15
Link to published article: