Plasma Sheet Theories

  1. T. E. Moore,
  2. J. H. Waite Jr.,
  3. T. W. Moorehead and
  4. W. B. Hanson
  1. T. W. Speiser

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM044p0277

Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma

Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma

How to Cite

Speiser, T. W. (1988) Plasma Sheet Theories, in Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma (eds T. E. Moore, J. H. Waite, T. W. Moorehead and W. B. Hanson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM044p0277

Author Information

  1. NOAA, SEL, Boulder, Colorado 80303

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1988

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900704

Online ISBN: 9781118664414



  • Space plasmas—Mathematical models;
  • Magnetosphere—Mathematical models;
  • Ionosphere—Mathematical models


Theories relevant to the geomagnetic tail plasma sheet are reviewed. The topics discussed include: kinetic instabilities, simulations, current sheet particle acceleration, and plasmoid and plasma sheet boundary layer pictures. Kinetic treatment is often appropriate for these topics since the tail plasma is collisionless. Fluid calculations are appropriate when stochastic processes dominate and for studies where long wavelengths are appropriate. Fluid theories are reviewed in an accompanying review. Fluid treatments of tearing modes and reconnection require a finite resistivity in the diffusion region. Thus, although anomalous resistivity can be guessed or in some cases calculated, ideally the kinetic treatment is often preferred. Particle motion and acceleration in the current sheet can give rise to beamlike distributions in the plasma sheet boundary layer. Studies of current sheet particle motion have also been used as the basis for kinetic tail equilibria models. Furthermore, quite recently current sheet particle motion is used directly in Coroniti's explosive tail reconnection model. Inertial effects from the equilibrium models provide the dissipation necessary for reconnection. Sketches of the current near-earth neutral line/plasmoid and plasma sheet boundary layer pictures are given, and a possible combination picture is discussed.