On the nature of three-dimensional magnetic reconnection

E. R. Priest, G. Hornig, D. I. Pontin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    101 Citations (Scopus)


    Three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic reconnection in a finite diffusion region is completely different in many respects from two-dimensional reconnection at an X-point. In two dimensions a magnetic flux velocity can always be defined: two flux tubes can break at a single point and rejoin to form two new flux tubes. In three dimensions we demonstrate that a flux tube velocity does not generally exist. The magnetic field lines continually change their connections throughout the diffusion region rather than just at one point. The effect of reconnection on two flux tubes is generally to split them into four flux tubes rather than to rejoin them perfectly. During the process of reconnection each of the four parts flips rapidly in a virtual flow that differs from the plasma velocity in the ideal region beyond the diffusion region.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1285
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
    Issue numberA7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


    • Magnetic reconnection
    • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
    • Magnetic flux
    • MHD


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