Geophysical Research Letters

Tearing stability of a multiscale magnetotail current sheet



[1] The sufficient stability criterion of the collisionless ion tearing mode in the magnetotail current sheet, which was first obtained by Lembege and Pellat in 1982, is considered. For many conventional 2D current sheet equilibria, this criterion is satisfied within the WKB approximation, which is commonly interpreted as stability of those equilibria with respect to tearing. However, this is not necessarily the case for equilibria with more than two characteristic spatial scales. An example for substantial tearing destabilization of an equilibrium with accumulation of the magnetic flux at the tailward end of a thin current sheet is presented. Similar equilibria are reported in Geotail and THEMIS observations prior to onsets of magnetospheric substorms and dipolarization fronts associated with bursty bulk flows.