Volume 634, February 2020
|Number of page(s)||13|
|Published online||11 February 2020|
The effect of drifts on the decay phase of SEP events
Department of Mathematics/Centre for mathematical Plasma Astrophysics, KU Leuven, Belgium
2 Departament Física Quàntica i Astrofísica, Institut de Ciències del Cosmos (ICCUB), Universitat de Barcelona (IEEC-UB), Barcelona, Spain
3 Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
4 Institute of Physics, University of Maria Curie-Skłodowska, Lublin, Poland
Accepted: 27 December 2019
Aims. We study the effect of the magnetic gradient and curvature drifts on the pitch-angle dependent transport of solar energetic particles (SEPs) in the heliosphere, focussing on ∼3–36 MeV protons. By considering observers located at different positions in the heliosphere, we investigate how drifts may alter the measured intensity-time profiles and energy spectra. We focus on the decay phase of solar energetic proton events in which a temporal invariant spectrum and disappearing spatial intensity gradients are often observed; a phenomenon known as the “reservoir effect” or the “SEP flood”. We study the effects of drifts by propagating particles both in nominal and non-nominal solar wind conditions.
Methods. We used a three-dimensional (3D) particle transport model, solving the focused transport equation extended with the effect of particle drifts in the spatial term. Nominal Parker solar wind configurations of different speeds and a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generated solar wind containing a corotating interaction region (CIR) were considered. The latter configuration gives rise to a magnetic bottle structure, with one bottleneck at the Sun and the other at the CIR. We inject protons from a fixed source at 0.1 AU, the inner boundary of the MHD model.
Results. When the drift induced particle net-flux is zero, the modelled intensity-time profiles obtained at different radial distances along an IMF line show the same intensity fall-off after the prompt phase of the particle event, which is in accordance with the SEP flood phenomenon. However, observers magnetically connected close to the edges of the particle injection site can experience, as a result of drifts, a sudden drop in the intensities occurring at different times for different energies such that no SEP flood phenomenon is established. In the magnetic bottle structure, this effect is enhanced due to the presence of magnetic field gradients strengthening the nominal particle drifts. Moreover, anisotropies can be large for observers that only receive particles through drifts, illustrating the importance of pitch-angle dependent 3D particle modelling. We observe that interplanetary cross-field diffusion can mitigate the effects of particle drifts.
Conclusions. Particle drifts can substantially modify the decay phase of SEP events, especially if the solar wind contains compression regions or shock waves where the drifts are enhanced. This is, for example, the case for our CIR solar wind configuration generated with a 3D MHD model, where the effect of drifts is strong. A similar decay rate in different energy channels and for different observers requires the mitigation of the effect of drifts. One way to accomplish this is through interplanetary cross-field diffusion, suggesting thus a way to determine a minimum value for the cross-field diffusion strength.
Key words: solar wind / Sun: particle emission / Sun: magnetic fields
© ESO 2020
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