Space Science Reviews

, Volume 95, Issue 1–2, pp 347–359 | Cite as

Substorm Trigger Processes in the Magnetotail: Recent Observations and Outstanding Issues

  • Shin-ichi Ohtani


The present article reviews recent studies about near-Earth substorm processes. A focus is placed on the relationship between two fundamental processes, that is, tail current disruption (TCD) and the formation of a near-Earth neutral line (NENL). The former is inferred to cause dipolarization, and the latter is often associated with the fast plasma flow in the plasma sheet. Whereas it is inferred from the directions of fast plasma flows that the NENL is formed at 20–30 RE from the Earth, dipolarization is most manifest in the near-Earth (6.6–12 RE) region. The observation of the fast plasma flow prior to substorm (Pi2) onsets favors the idea that the NENL is formed first and dipolarization is the effect of the pile-up of magnetic flux convected earthward from the NENL, which is called the pile-up model. The present paper addresses several outstanding issues regarding this model, including (1) the interpretation of plasma flow deceleration in terms of the flux pile up, (2) highly irregular magnetic fluctuations observed in the near- Earth region, (3) the spatial coherency of the fast plasma flow, (4) the spatial structure and expansion of dipolarization region, and (5) the explosive growth phase. The paper also proposes the possibility that TCD is an independent process, but the formation of the NENL sets a favorable condition for it.


Explosive Magnetic Flux Plasma Flow Plasma Sheet Flow Deceleration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shin-ichi Ohtani
    • 1
  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratoryLaurelU.S.A

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