Explaining the dynamics of the ultra-relativistic third Van Allen radiation belt

Ian Mann, Louis Ozeke, Kyle Murphy, Seth Claudepierre, Drew Turner, Daniel Baker, Jonathan Rae, Andy Kale, David Milling, A. Boyd, Harlan Spence, Geoff Reeves, Howard Singer, Stavos Dimitrakoudis, Ioannis Daglis, Farideh Honary

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103 Citations (Scopus)
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Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts over 50 years ago, an explanation for their complete dynamics has remained elusive. Especially challenging is understanding the recently discovered ultra-relativistic third electron radiation belt. Current theory asserts that loss in the heart of the outer belt, essential to the formation of the third belt, must be controlled by high-frequency plasma wave–particle scattering into the atmosphere, via whistler mode chorus, plasmaspheric hiss, or electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves. However, this has failed to accurately reproduce the third belt. Using a data-driven, time-dependent specification of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves we show for the first time how the third radiation belt is established as a simple, elegant consequence of storm-time extremely fast outward ULF wave transport. High-frequency wave–particle scattering loss into the atmosphere is not needed in this case. When rapid ULF wave transport coupled to a dynamic boundary is accurately specified, the sensitive dynamics controlling the enigmatic ultra-relativistic third radiation belt are naturally explained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-983
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number10
Early online date20 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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