Large-scale energy budget of impulsive magnetic reconnection: Theory and simulation

S. A. Kiehas, N. N. Volkonskaya, V. S. Semenov, N. V. Erkaev, I. V. Kubyshkin, I. V. Zaitsev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluate the large-scale energy budget of magnetic reconnection utilizing an analytical time-dependent impulsive reconnection model and a numerical 2-D MHD simulation. With the generalization to compressible plasma, we can investigate changes in the thermal, kinetic, and magnetic energies. We study these changes in three different regions: (a) the region defined by the outflowing plasma (outflow region, OR), (b) the region of compressed magnetic fields above/below the OR (traveling compression region, TCR), and (c) the region trailing the OR and TCR (wake). For incompressible plasma, we find that the decrease inside the OR is compensated by the increase in kinetic energy. However, for the general compressible case, the decrease in magnetic energy inside the OR is not sufficient to explain the increase in thermal and kinetic energy. Hence, energy from other regions needs to be considered. We find that the decrease in thermal and magnetic energy in the wake, together with the decrease in magnetic energy inside the OR, is sufficient to feed the increase in kinetic and thermal energies in the OR and the increase in magnetic and thermal energies inside the TCR. That way, the energy budget is balanced, but consequently, not all magnetic energy is converted into kinetic and thermal energies of the OR. Instead, a certain fraction gets transfered into the TCR. As an upper limit of the efficiency of reconnection (magnetic energy → kinetic energy) we find ηeff=1/2. A numerical simulation is used to include a finite thickness of the current sheet, which shows the importance of the pressure gradient inside the OR for the conversion of kinetic energy into thermal energy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3212-3231
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Paleontology


  • magnetic reconnection
  • magnetospheric physics
  • plasma physics
  • substorms


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