Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 12, 321–336, 2005

Special issue: Advances in space environment turbulence

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 12, 321–336, 2005

  18 Feb 2005

18 Feb 2005

Nonlinear Alfvén waves, discontinuities, proton perpendicular acceleration, and magnetic holes/decreases in interplanetary space and the magnetosphere: intermediate shocks?

B. T. Tsurutani2,1, G. S. Lakhina3, J. S. Pickett4, F. L. Guarnieri5,2, N. Lin6, and B. E. Goldstein1 B. T. Tsurutani et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA, 91109, USA
  • 2Space Science Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 3Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Mumbai/Bombay, India
  • 4Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
  • 5Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Av. dos Astronautas, 1.758 – São José dos Campos, SP-12227-010, Brazil
  • 6Space Sciences Laboratory,University at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA

Abstract. Alfvén waves, discontinuities, proton perpendicular acceleration and magnetic decreases (MDs) in interplanetary space are shown to be interrelated. Discontinuities are the phase-steepened edges of Alfvén waves. Magnetic decreases are caused by a diamagnetic effect from perpendicularly accelerated (to the magnetic field) protons. The ion acceleration is associated with the dissipation of phase-steepened Alfvén waves, presumably through the Ponderomotive Force. Proton perpendicular heating, through instabilities, lead to the generation of both proton cyclotron waves and mirror mode structures. Electromagnetic and electrostatic electron waves are detected as well. The Alfvén waves are thus found to be both dispersive and dissipative, conditions indicting that they may be intermediate shocks. The resultant "turbulence" created by the Alfvén wave dissipation is quite complex. There are both propagating (waves) and nonpropagating (mirror mode structures and MDs) byproducts. Arguments are presented to indicate that similar processes associated with Alfvén waves are occurring in the magnetosphere. In the magnetosphere, the "turbulence" is even further complicated by the damping of obliquely propagating proton cyclotron waves and the formation of electron holes, a form of solitary waves. Interplanetary Alfvén waves are shown to rapidly phase-steepen at a distance of 1AU from the Sun. A steepening rate of ~35 times per wavelength is indicated by Cluster-ACE measurements. Interplanetary (reverse) shock compression of Alfvén waves is noted to cause the rapid formation of MDs on the sunward side of corotating interaction regions (CIRs). Although much has been learned about the Alfvén wave phase-steepening processfrom space plasma observations, many facets are still not understood. Several of these topics are discussed for the interested researcher. Computer simulations and theoretical developments will be particularly useful in making further progress in this exciting new area.