Atmospheric scattering and decay of inner radiation belt electrons

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Abstract

[1] The dynamics of inner radiation belt electrons are governed by competing source, loss, and transport processes. However, during the recent extended solar minimum period the source was inactive and electron intensity was characterized by steady decay. This provided an opportunity to determine contributions to the decay rate of losses by precipitation into the atmosphere and of diffusive radial transport. To this end, a stochastic simulation of inner radiation belt electron transport is compared to data taken by the IDP instrument on the DEMETER satellite during 2009. For quasi-trapped, 200 keV electrons atL= 1.3, observed in the drift loss cone (DLC), results are consistent with electron precipitation losses by atmospheric scattering alone, provided account is taken of non-diffusive wide-angle scattering. Such scattering is included in the stochastic simulation using a Markov jump process. Diffusive small-angle atmospheric scattering, while causing most of the precipitation losses, is too slow relative to azimuthal drift to contribute significantly to DLC intensity. Similarly there is no contribution from scattering by VLF plasma waves. Energy loss, energy diffusion, and azimuthal drift are also included in the model. Even so, observed decay rates of stably-trapped electrons withL < 1.5 are slower than predicted by scattering losses alone, requiring radial diffusion with coefficient DLL ∼ 3 × 10−10 s−1 to replenish electrons lost to the atmosphere at low L values.

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