Particle Dynamics in the Earth's Radiation Belts: Review of Current Research and Open Questions

J. F. Ripoll, S. G. Claudepierre, A. Y. Ukhorskiy, C. Colpitts, X. Li, J. F. Fennell, C. Crabtree

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71 Scopus citations


The past decade transformed our observational understanding of energetic particle processes in near-Earth space. An unprecedented suite of observational systems was in operation including the Van Allen Probes, Arase, Magnetospheric Multiscale, Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, Cluster, GPS, GOES, and Los Alamos National Laboratory-GEO magnetospheric missions. They were supported by conjugate low-altitude measurements on spacecraft, balloons, and ground-based arrays. Together, these significantly improved our ability to determine and quantify the mechanisms that control the buildup and subsequent variability of energetic particle intensities in the inner magnetosphere. The high-quality data from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Van Allen Probes are the most comprehensive in situ measurements ever taken in the near-Earth space radiation environment. These observations, coupled with recent advances in radiation belt theory and modeling, including dramatic increases in computational power, have ushered in a new era, perhaps a “golden era,” in radiation belt research. We have edited a Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Science Special Collection dedicated to Particle Dynamics in the Earth's Radiation Belts in which we gather the most recent scientific findings and understanding of this important region of geospace. This collection includes the results presented at the American Geophysical Union Chapman International Conference in Cascais, Portugal (March 2018) and many other recent and relevant contributions. The present article introduces and review the context, current research, and main questions that motivate modern radiation belt research divided into the following topics: (1) particle acceleration and transport, (2) particle loss, (3) the role of nonlinear processes, (4) new radiation belt modeling capabilities and the quantification of model uncertainties, and (5) laboratory plasma experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019JA026735
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

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©2019. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • Van Allen Probes
  • laboratory plasma experiments
  • particle acceleration
  • particle dynamics
  • particle loss
  • radiation belts


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