Substorm detonation

O. A. Hurricane, B. H. Fong, S. C. Cowley, F. V. Coroniti, C. F. Kennel, R. Pellat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The rapid, Alfvénic timescale of "onset" has been an enigma ever since magnetospheric substorms were first identified. Investigators have proposed a variety of trigger mechanisms in an effort to account for the abrupt reconfiguration observed. No one mechanism clearly stands out as the single cause of substorms. Recent analysis has demonstrated that field lines in the tail of the magnetosphere are metastable to ballooning type instabilities via a process called "nonlinear magnetohydrodynamic detonation." Furthermore, the perturbation amplitude necessary to activate the nonlinear instability is not large. Thus a variety, of external and internal perturbations can trigger the same basic nonlinear instability. The evidence for detonation as a medium for the unification of substorm triggers is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1999JA900012
Pages (from-to)10221-10231
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue numberA5
StatePublished - May 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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