Open Access

A two-step scenario for both solar flares and magnetospheric substorms: Short duration energy storage

Earth, Planets and Space200961:BF03352921

Received: 16 September 2008

Accepted: 12 March 2009

Published: 29 May 2009


The basic observations for magnetic storms and substorms at Earth and for flares at the Sun are reviewed for background. We present a common scenario of double magnetic reconnection for both substorms and flares based on previous interplanetary observations and substorm-triggering results. Central to the scenario is that the first magnetic reconnection phase is the source of energy loading for possible substorms and flares. The energy placed in the magnetotail or magnetosphere/at the sun lasts for only a short duration of time however. The energy gets dissipates away rapidly (in some less dramatic form). This scenario predicts that if the initial reconnection process is sufficiently intense and rapid, concomitant substorms and flares occur soon thereafter. If the energy input is less rapid, there may be lengthy delays for the onset of substorms and flares. If external influences (shocks, etc.) occur during the latter energy buildup, the “trigger” will cause a sudden release of this energy. The model also explains reconnection without subsequent substorms and flares. The model addresses the question why strong triggering events are sometimes ineffective.

Key words

Solar flares substorms magnetic storms magnetic reconnection