Articles | Volume 19, issue 2
Research article
05 Mar 2012
Research article |  | 05 Mar 2012

Turbulence in a global magnetohydrodynamic simulation of the Earth's magnetosphere during northward and southward interplanetary magnetic field

M. El-Alaoui, R. L. Richard, M. Ashour-Abdalla, R. J. Walker, and M. L. Goldstein

Abstract. We report the results of MHD simulations of Earth's magnetosphere for idealized steady solar wind plasma and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. The simulations feature purely northward and southward magnetic fields and were designed to study turbulence in the magnetotail plasma sheet. We found that the power spectral densities (PSDs) for both northward and southward IMF had the characteristics of turbulent flow. In both cases, the PSDs showed the three scale ranges expected from theory: the energy-containing scale, the inertial range, and the dissipative range. The results were generally consistent with in-situ observations and theoretical predictions. While the two cases studied, northward and southward IMF, had some similar characteristics, there were significant differences as well. For southward IMF, localized reconnection was the main energy source for the turbulence. For northward IMF, remnant reconnection contributed to driving the turbulence. Boundary waves may also have contributed. In both cases, the PSD slopes had spatial distributions in the dissipative range that reflected the pattern of resistive dissipation. For southward IMF there was a trend toward steeper slopes in the dissipative range with distance down the tail. For northward IMF there was a marked dusk-dawn asymmetry with steeper slopes on the dusk side of the tail. The inertial scale PSDs had a dusk-dawn symmetry during the northward IMF interval with steeper slopes on the dawn side. This asymmetry was not found in the distribution of inertial range slopes for southward IMF. The inertial range PSD slopes were clustered around values close to the theoretical expectation for both northward and southward IMF. In the dissipative range, however, the slopes were broadly distributed and the median values were significantly different, consistent with a different distribution of resistivity.