Simulating the Earth’s radiation belts: internal acceleration and continuous losses to the magnetopause

In the Earth's radiation belts the flux of relativistic electrons is highly variable, sometimes changing by orders of magnitude within a few hours. Since energetic electrons can damage satellites it is important to understand the processes driving these changes and, ultimately, to develop forecasts of the energetic electron population. One approach is to use 3-dimensional diffusion models, based on a Fokker-Planck equation. Here we describe a model where the phase-space density is set to zero at the outer L* boundary, simulating losses to the magnetopause, using recently published chorus diffusion coefficients for 1.5 ≤ L* ≤ 10. The value of the phase-space density on the minimum energy boundary is determined from a recently published, solar wind dependent, statistical model. Our simulations show that an outer radiation belt can be created by local acceleration of electrons from a very soft energy spectrum without the need for a source of electrons from inward radial transport. The location in L* of the peaks in flux for these steady state simulations is energy dependent and moves Earthward with increasing energy. Comparisons between the model and data from the CRRES satellite are shown; flux drop-outs are reproduced in the model by the increased outward radial diffusion that occurs during storms. Including the inward movement of the magnetopause in the model has little additional effect on the results. Finally, the location of the low energy boundary is shown to be important for accurate modelling of observations.

Details

Publication status:
Published
Author(s):
Authors: Glauert, Sarah A., Horne, Richard B., Meredith, Nigel P.

On this site: Nigel Meredith, Richard Horne, Sarah Glauert
Date:
23 September, 2014
Journal/Source:
Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics / 119
Page(s):
7444-7463
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
https://doi.org/10.1002/2014JA020092