University of Minnesota
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Cynthia Cattell

Discovery of very large amplitude whistler-mode waves in Earth's radiation belts
C. Cattell et al., Geophys. Res. Let.,35, L01105, doi:10.1029/2007GL032009, 2008

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During a passage through the Earth's dawn-side outer radiation belt, whistler-mode waves with amplitudes up to more than ∼240 mV/m were observed by the STEREO S/WAVES instrument. These waves are an order of magnitude larger than previously observed for whistlers in the radiation belt. Although the peak frequency is similar to whistler chorus, there are distinct differences from chorus, in addition to the larger amplitudes, including the lack of drift in frequency and the oblique propagation with a large longitudinal electric field component. Simulations show that these large amplitude waves can energize an electron by the order of an MeV in less than 0.1s, explaining the rapid enhancement in electron intensities observed between the STEREO-B and STEREO-A passage during this event. Our results show that the usual theoretical models of electron energization and scattering via small-amplitude waves, with timescales of hours to days, may be inadequate for understanding radiation belt dynamics.