The sudden release of magnetic free energy, as occurs in spectacular solar flare events, tokamak disruptions, and enigmatic magnetospheric substorms, has long defied any acceptable theoretical explanation. Usual attempts at explaining these explosive events invoke magnetic reconnection and/or ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instability. However, neither of these two mechanisms can explain the fast time scales without nonlinear destabilization. Recently, Cowley et al. [Phys. Plasmas 3, 1848 (1996)] have demonstrated a new mechanism for nonlinear explosive MHD destabilization of a line tied Rayleigh-Taylor model. In this paper, this picture is generalized to arbitrary magnetic field geometries. As an intermediate step, the ballooning equation in a general equilibrium is derived including the effects of magnetic field curvature, shear, and gravity. This equation determines the linear stability of the plasma configuration and the behavior of the plasma displacement along the magnetic field line. The nonlinear equation which determines the time and spatial dependence, transverse to the equilibrium magnetic field, of the plasma displacement is obtained in fifth order of the expansion. The equations show that explosive behavior is a natural and generic property of ballooning instabilities close to the linear stability boundary.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics