Two of the largest geomagnetic storms of the last decade were witnessed in 2015. On 17 March 2015, a coronal mass ejection-driven event occurred with a Dst (storm time ring current index) value reaching −223 nT. On 22 June 2015 another strong storm (Dst reaching −204 nT) was recorded. These two storms each produced almost total loss of radiation belt high-energy (E ≳ 1 MeV) electron fluxes. Following the dropouts of radiation belt fluxes there were complex and rather remarkable recoveries of the electrons extending up to nearly 10 MeV in kinetic energy. The energized outer zone electrons showed a rich variety of pitch angle features including strong “butterfly” distributions with deep minima in flux at α = 90°. However, despite strong driving of outer zone earthward radial diffusion in these storms, the previously reported “impenetrable barrier” at L ≈ 2.8 was pushed inward, but not significantly breached, and no E ≳ 2.0 MeV electrons were seen to pass through the radiation belt slot region to reach the inner Van Allen zone. Overall, these intense storms show a wealth of novel features of acceleration, transport, and loss that are demonstrated in the present detailed analysis.
- electron acceleration
- radiation belts