Fast magnetic reconnection and sudden enhancement of current sheets due to inward boundary flows

Xiaogang Wang, Z. W. ma, Amitava Bhattacharjee

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39 Scopus citations


Magnetic reconnection is widely believed to be involved in dynamical phenomena such as solar flares or magnetospheric substorms. The Sweet–Parker model of magnetic reconnection in a Y‐type geometry predicts a characteristic time scale proportional to S1/2 (where S is the Lundquist number), which is too slow to account for the observed time scales. The Petschek model, in contrast, predicts a time scale proportional to ln S in an X‐point geometry. Numerical magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations in the high‐S regime generally validate the Sweet–Parker model, unless the resistivity is enhanced in the diffusion region to large values (such that typically S<103). It is demonstrated in this paper that nonlinear reconnection dynamics in a Harris sheet driven by inward boundary flows occurs on a nonlinear time scale that is proportional to S1/5 and thus has a weaker dependence on resistivity than the Sweet–Parker time scale. The current sheet amplitude at the separatrix (spanning Y points) grows algebraically in the linear regime but is suddenly enhanced after it makes a transition to the nonlinear regime. An analytical calculation is given for both the linear and the nonlinear regimes, and supported by two‐dimensional resistive MHD simulations. The features of sudden current sheet enhancement and fast reconnection, controlled by boundary flows, are relevant to the phenomena of substorm onset or the impulsive phase of flares.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2129-2134
Number of pages6
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics

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