Observations of Flux Transfer Events: Are Ftes Flux Ropes, Islands, or Surface Waves?

  1. C. T. Russell,
  2. E. R. Priest and
  3. L. C. Lee
  1. R. C. Elphic

Published Online: 21 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM058p0455

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

How to Cite

Elphic, R. C. (1990) Observations of Flux Transfer Events: Are Ftes Flux Ropes, Islands, or Surface Waves?, in Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes (eds C. T. Russell, E. R. Priest and L. C. Lee), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM058p0455

Author Information

  1. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1990

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900261

Online ISBN: 9781118663868



  • Solar photosphere;
  • Magnetic flux;
  • Astrophysics


Flux transfer events (FTEs) are widely regarded as a signature of transient reconnection between the magnetic fields in the solar wind and magnetospheric plasmas. Until recently the prevailing model held that the structure of FTEs is that of a magnetic flux rope, with a strong central axial core field surrounded by a weaker twisted azimuthal field. Lately the advent of multiple x-line reconnection models has raised the question of whether FTEs are tearing islands, or time-varying single x-line reconnection. If the former, FTEs may indeed have a rope-like structure; if the latter, then FTEs ought not to be rope-like. We reexamine the evidence that first led to the suggestion that FTEs are related to a non-time-stationary reconnection process. In particular we discuss how the combination of field and plasma variations suggest that FTEs are magnetic flux ropes. Both time-varying single x-line and multiple x-line reconnection can disturb the surrounding plasma and produce a signature which ‘mimics' that of a flux rope without flux rope topology. In fact any localized perturbation of the magnetopause surface can produce such a signature. However, the evidence is against a surface wave explanation of FTEs: their occurrence during southward IMF, mixture of solar wind and magnetospheric plasmas, leakage of energetic particles, accelerated plasma flows and peculiarities of the magnetic signature all point to a reconnection-related phenomenon.