Collisionless damping at electron scales in solar wind turbulence

J. M. Tenbarge, G. G. Howes, W. Dorland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The dissipation of turbulence in the weakly collisional solar wind plasma is governed by unknown kinetic mechanisms. Two candidates have been suggested to play an important role in the dissipation, collisionless damping via wave-particle interactions and dissipation in small-scale current sheets. High resolution spacecraft measurements of the turbulent magnetic energy spectrum provide important constraints on the dissipation mechanism. The limitations of popular fluid and hybrid numerical schemes for simulation of the dissipation of solar wind turbulence are discussed, and instead a three-dimensional kinetic approach is recommended. We present a three-dimensional nonlinear gyrokinetic simulation of solar wind turbulence at electron scales that quantitatively reproduces the exponential form of the turbulent magnetic energy spectrum measured in the solar wind. A weakened cascade model that accounts for nonlocal interactions and collisionless Landau damping also quantitatively agrees with the observed exponential form. These results establish that a turbulent cascade of kinetic Alfvén waves that is terminated by collisionless Landau damping is sufficient to explain the observed magnetic energy spectrum in the dissipation range of solar wind turbulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • plasmas
  • solar wind
  • turbulence


Dive into the research topics of 'Collisionless damping at electron scales in solar wind turbulence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this