Investigation of the multiple-component structure of the 20 January 2005 cosmic ray ground level enhancement

25 November 2009

Worldwide observations of the cosmic ray ground level enhancement (GLE) of 20 January 2005 are used to investigate a commonly observed but poorly understood feature of this class of event. It is argued that the GLE comprised two distinctly different cosmic ray populations. The first resulted in an impulsive, highly anisotropic, field-aligned pulse with a relatively hard rigidity spectrum and significant velocity dispersion. The characteristics of the anisotropy were almost identical to those for similar impulsive increases observed during GLEs in 1960, 1978, and 1989. The p 0 g ray observations from the RHESSI and CORONAS-F spacecraft and Type III radio emissions yield a path length of 1.76 ± 0.1 AU to Earth for the first pulse. After the highest energies in the initial anisotropic pulse had passed Earth, another field-aligned but mildly anisotropic cosmic ray pulse developed slowly worldwide, exhibiting the characteristics of the conventional GLE. The risetime and anisotropy of this second population indicate substantial scattering, apparently at variance to the essentially scatter-free nature of the initial pulse. We show that the coexisting scatter-free initial impulsive increase and the diffusive character of the second pulse are consistent with the standard quasi-linear theory of pitch angle diffusion. Throughout the GLE, the anisotropy remained field-aligned, and a third maximum, seen by some stations, is shown to be due to changes in the direction of the heliospheric magnetic field (HMF). Examination of 22 large (>20%) GLEs in the historical record shows that the impulsive pulse never occurs after the commencement of the P2 pulse, indicating that the impulsive-gradual combination is not due to a chance sampling of differing scattering regions of the HMF. It is further shown that impulsive pulses, or their equivalents, have been observed in 13 out of the 15 GLEs associated with solar activity in the solar longitude range 24° –98°W, leading us to propose that the event of 20 January 2005 should be regarded as the defining example of the GLE. The observations lead us to propose two separate acceleration episodes in the typical GLE: (1) acceleration directly associated with the flare itself and located in the lower corona and (2) acceleration by a supercritical shock driven by the associated coronal mass ejection, located at 3–5 solar radii and farther in the upper corona. A one-to-one association with so-called impulsive and gradual solar energetic particle events at lower energies is proposed. On the basis of these observations, a generic model for the GLE is proposed