Journal of Geophysical Research vol:106 issue:A12 pages:30023-30037
Recently, it has been shown that for strong upstream magnetic field, stationary three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) bow shock flows exhibit a complex double-front shock topology with particular segments of the shock fronts being of the intermediate MHD shock type. The large-scale stability of this new bow shock topology is investigated. Two types of numerical experiments are described in which the upstream flow is perturbed in a time-dependent manner. It is found that large-amplitude noncyclic localized perturbations may cause the disintegration of the intermediate shocks, which are indeed known to be unstable against perturbations with integrated amplitudes above critical values, but that in the driven bow shock problem there are always shock front segments where intermediate shocks are reformed dynamically, resulting in the reappearance of the new double-front topology with intermediate-shock segments after the perturbation has passed. These MHD results indicate a theoretical mechanism for the possible intermittent formation of shock segments of intermediate type in unsteady space physics bow shock flows when upstream magnetic fields are strong, for example. in the terrestrial bow shock during periods of strong interplanetary magnetic field, which are more common under solar maximum conditions, or in leading shock fronts induced by fast coronal mass ejections in the solar corona. It remains to be confirmed if intermediate-shock segments would be formed when kinetic effects and realistic dissipation in real space plasmas are taken into account. The detailed interaction of realistic, wave-like cyclic perturbations with the intermediate-shock segments in bow shock flows may lead to unsteady structures composed of (time-dependent) intermediate shocks, rotational discontinuities, and nonlinear wave trains, as in the scenarios proposed by Markovskii and Skorokhodov . The possible relevance of the new bow shock topology with intermediate shocks for space weather phenomena is discussed.