Multi-scale observations of the magnetopause Kelvin-Helmholtz waves during southward IMF

K. A. Blasl*, T. K.M. Nakamura, F. Plaschke, R. Nakamura, H. Hasegawa, J. E. Stawarz, Yi Hsin Liu, S. Peery, J. C. Holmes, M. Hosner, D. Schmid, O. W. Roberts, M. Volwerk

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this study, we present the first observations from the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) at the dusk-flank magnetopause during southward interplanetary magnetic field conditions on September 23, 2017. The instability criterion for the KHI was fulfilled for the plasma parameters observed throughout the event. An analysis of the boundary normal vectors based on the application of the timing method onto the magnetic field and the electron density data and the minimum directional derivative method onto the magnetic field data shows signatures of surface waves in the plane parallel to the velocity shear. A comparison to 2D fully kinetic simulations demonstrates reasonable consistencies with the formation of surface waves generated by the KH instability, as well as the structures of rolled-up KH waves. The observations further indicated low density faster than sheath plasma as an indicator of rolled-up vortices, which is also consistent with the simulations. All of these results show that the observed waves and vortices are most likely generated by the KH instability. High-time resolution MMS measurements further demonstrate kinetic-scale electric field fluctuations on the low-density side of the edges of surface waves. Detailed comparisons with the simulations suggest that the observed fluctuations are generated by the lower-hybrid drift instability excited by the density gradient at the edges of these surface waves. These secondary effects can lead to a flattening of the edge layers, indicating the connection between kinetic and larger scales within the KH waves and vortices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number012105
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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