We employ a 2 1/2-dimensional reconnection model to analyse different aspects of the energy release in two-ribbon flares. In particular, we investigate in which way the systematic change of inflow region variables, associated with the vertical elongation of current sheet, affects the flare evolution. It is assumed that as the transversal magnetic field decreases, the ambient plasma-to-magnetic pressure ratio increases, and the reconnection rate diminishes. As the transversal field decreases due to the arcade stretching, the energy release enhances and the temperature rises. Furthermore, the magnetosonic Mach number of the reconnection outflow increases, providing the formation of fast mode standing shocks above the flare loops and below the erupting flux rope. Eventually, in the limit of a very small transversal field the reconnection becomes turbulent due to a highly non-linear response of the system to small fluctuations of the transversal field. The turbulence results in the energy release fragmentation which increases the release efficiency, and is likely to be responsible for the impulsive phase of the flare. On the other hand, as the current sheet stretches to larger heights, the ambient plasma-to-magnetic pressure ratio increases which causes a gradual decrease of the reconnection rate, energy release rate, and temperature in the late phase of flare. The described magnetohydrodynamical changes affect also the electron distribution function in space and time. At large reconnection rates (impulsive phase of the flare) the ratio of the inflow-to-outflow magnetic field strength is much smaller than at lower reconnection rates (late phase of the flare), i.e., the corresponding loss-cone angle becomes narrower. Consequently, in the impulsive phase a larger fraction of energized electrons can escape from the current sheet downwards to the chromosphere and upwards into the corona the dominant flare features are the foot-point hard X-ray sources and type III radio bursts. On the other hand, at low reconnection rates, more particles stay trapped in the outflow region, and the thermal conduction flux becomes strongly reduced. As a result, a superhot loop-top, and above-the-loop plasma appears, as sometimes observed, to be a dominant feature of the gradual phase.
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