Time Evolution of the Macroscopic Characteristics of a Thin Current Sheet in the Course of Its Formation in the Earth’s Magnetotail
A numerical model is developed that allows tracing the time evolution of a current sheet from a relatively thick current configuration with isotropic distributions of the pressure and temperature in an extremely thin current sheet, which plays a key role in geomagnetic processes. Such a configuration is observed in the Earth’s magnetotail in the stage preceding a large-scale geomagnetic disturbance (substorm). Thin current sheets are reservoirs of the free energy released during geomagnetic disturbances. The time evolution of the components of the pressure tensor caused by changes in the structure of the current sheet is investigated. It is shown that the pressure tensor in the current sheet evolves in two stages. In the first stage, a current sheet with a thickness of eight to ten proton Larmor radii forms. This stage is characterized by the plasma drift toward the current sheet and the Earth and can be described in terms of the Chu–Goldberger–Low approximation. In the second stage, an extremely thin current sheet with an anisotropic plasma pressure tensor forms, due to which the system is maintained in an equilibrium state. Estimates of the characteristic time of the system evolution agree with available experimental data.