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Generation of anomalous flows near the bow shock by its interaction with interplanetary discontinuities


Two-dimensional hybrid simulations using a curvilinear coordinate system are carried out to study the interaction of the Earth's bow shock (BS) with an interplanetary directional discontinuity. In particular, plasma flow patterns are examined. In the interaction of the bow shock with an interplanetary tangential discontinuity (TD), a bulge of magnetic field and plasma may be present near the intersection between the fronts of the BS and the TD. The bulge expands to the upstream and is embedded in the solar wind. High magnetic field and ion density are present in the boundary regions of the bulge, and the temperature in the bulge is significantly higher than that in the ambient solar wind. A core of low density and sometimes low field is present inside the bulge. The flow speed changes from supersonic in the solar wind to subsonic throughout the bulge. A strong sunward deflection in flow velocity is present both in the bulge and in the magnetosheath behind the bulge. The presence of such hot anomalous flows depends on the direction and symmetry condition of the upstream motional electric field. The formation of the bulge and the associated anomalous flows is found to be mainly due to (1) the reflected ions which are focused to TD under the proper electric field conditions, (2) the unbalanced pressure associated with the geometry change and reformation of the BS which causes the expansion of downstream and the sunward motion of ions, or (3) the occurrence of magnetic reconnection in the current sheet. In the interaction of the BS with an interplanetary rotational discontinuity (RD), the flow may be deflected sunward by the magnetic tension force associated with the resulting rotational discontinuities and slow shocks in the magnetosheath. It is suggested that the observed anomalous flow events upstream of the bow shock may be due to the BS/TD interaction, and both BS/RD and BS/TD interactions may generate strong sunward flow deflections in the magnetosheath.