Electron pitch angle diffusion by electrostatic electron cyclotron harmonic waves: The origin of pancake distributions

It has been suggested that highly anisotropic electron pancake distributions are the result of pitch angle diffusion by electrostatic electron cyclotron harmonic (ECH) and whistler mode waves in the equatorial region. Here we present pitch angle diffusion rates for ECH wave spectra centered at different frequencies with respect to the electron gyrofrequency Ωe corresponding to spacecraft observations. The wave spectra are carefully mapped to the correct resonant electron velocities. We show that previous diffusion calculations of ECH waves at 1.5Ωe, driven by the loss cone instability, result in large diffusion rates confined to a small range of pitch angles near the loss cone and therefore cannot account for pancake distributions. However, when the wave spectrum is centered at higher frequencies in the band (> 1.6Ωe), the diffusion rates become very small inside the loss cone, peak just outside, and remain large over a wide range of pitch angles up to 60° or more. When the upper hybrid resonance frequency ωUHR is several times Ωe, ECH waves excited in higher bands also contribute significantly to pitch angle diffusion outside the loss cone up to very large pitch angles. We suggest that ECH waves driven by a loss cone could form pancake distributions as they grow if the wave spectrum extends from the middle to the upper part of the first (and higher) gyroharmonic bands. Alternatively, we suggest that pancake distributions can be formed by outward propagation in a nonhomogeneous medium, so that resonant absorption occurs at higher frequencies between (n + ½) and (n + 1)Ωe in regions where waves are also growing locally at < 1.5Ωe. The calculated diffusion rates suggest that ECH waves with amplitudes of the order of l mV m−1 can form pancake distributions from an initially isotropic distribution on a timescale of a few hours. This is consistent with recent CRRES observations of ECH wave amplitudes following substorm injections near geostationary orbit and the timescales for pancake formation. Persistent but much weaker ECH waves can further intensify and maintain pancake distributions during magnetically quiet periods.


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Authors: Horne, Richard B. ORCIDORCID record for Richard B. Horne, Thorne, Richard M.

On this site: Richard Horne
1 January, 2000
Journal of Geophysical Research / 105
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