The three-dimensional evolution of ion-scale current sheets: tearing and drift-kink instabilities in the presence of proton temperature anisotropy
We present the first three-dimensional hybrid simulations of the evolution of ion-scale current sheets, with an investigation of the role of temperature anisotropy and associated kinetic instabilities on the growth of the tearing instability and particle heating. We confirm the ability of the ion cyclotron and firehose instabilities to enhance or suppress reconnection, respectively. The simulations demonstrate the emergence of persistent three-dimensional structures, including patchy reconnection sites and the fast growth of a narrow-band drift-kink instability, which suppresses reconnection for thin current sheets with weak guide fields. Potential observational signatures of the three-dimensional evolution of solar wind current sheets are also discussed. We conclude that kinetic instabilities, arising from non-Maxwellian ion populations, are significant to the evolution of three-dimensional current sheets, and two-dimensional studies of heating rates by reconnection may therefore over-estimate the ability of thin, ion-scale current sheets to heat the solar wind by reconnection.