Constraining the Location of the Outer Boundary of Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt

T. Bloch*, C. E. J. Watt, M. J. Owens, R. L. Thompson, O. Agiwal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract: Characterizing the location of the outer boundary of the outer radiation belt is a key aspect of improving radiation belt models and helps to constrain our understanding of the mechanisms by which the source and seed electron populations are transported into the radiation belts. In this paper, we hypothesize that there are statistical differences in the electron distribution function across the radiation belt outer boundary, and thus analyze electron flux data from the THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) satellites to identify this location. We validate our hypothesis by using modeled electron L* values to approximately characterize the differences between electron distribution functions inside and outside of the radiation belts. Initially, we perform a simple statistical analysis by studying the radial evolution of the electron distribution functions. This approach does not yield a clear discontinuity, thus highlighting the need for more complex statistical treatment of the data. Subsequently, we employ machine learning (with no dependence on radial position or L*) to test a range of candidate outer boundary locations. By analyzing the performance of the models at each candidate location, we identify a statistical boundary at ≈8 RE, with results suggesting some variability. This statistical boundary is typically further out than those used in current radiation belt models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020EA001610
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Space Science
Issue number6
Early online date10 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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