Kinetic theory of phase space plateaux in a non-thermal energetic particle distribution
Journal article, 2015
The transformation of kinetically unstable plasma eigenmodes into hole-clump pairs with temporally evolving carrier frequencies was recently attributed to the emergence of an intermediate stage in the mode evolution cycle, that of an unmodulated plateau in the phase space distribution of fast particles. The role of the plateau as the hole-clump breeding ground is further substantiated in this article via consideration of its linear and nonlinear stability in the presence of fast particle collisions and sources, which are known to affect the production rates and subsequent frequency sweeping of holes and clumps. In particular, collisional relaxation, as mediated by e.g. velocity space diffusion or even simple Krook-type collisions, is found to inhibit hole-clump generation and detachment from the plateau, as it should. On the other hand, slowing down of the fast particles turns out to have an asymmetrically destabilizing/stabilizing effect, which explains the well-known result that collisional drag enhances holes and their sweeping rates but suppresses clumps. It is further demonstrated that relaxation of the plateau edge gradients has only a minor quantitative effect and does not change the plateau stability qualitatively, unless the edge region extends far into the plateau shelf and the corresponding Landau pole needs to be taken into account.