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Midday auroral breakup events and related energy and momentum transfer from the magnetosheath

Sandholt, P. E., Lockwood, M., Oguti, T., Cowley, S. W. H., Freeman, K. S. C., Lybekk, B., Egeland, A. and Willis, D. M. (1990) Midday auroral breakup events and related energy and momentum transfer from the magnetosheath. Journal of Geophysical Research, 95 (A2). pp. 1039-1060. ISSN 0148-0227

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/JA095iA02p01039


Combined observations by meridian-scanning photometers, all-sky auroral TV camera and the EISCAT radar permitted a detailed analysis of the temporal and spatial development of the midday auroral breakup phenomenon and the related ionospheric ion flow pattern within the 71°–75° invariant latitude radar field of view. The radar data revealed dominating northward and westward ion drifts, of magnitudes close to the corresponding velocities of the discrete, transient auroral forms, during the two different events reported here, characterized by IMF |BY/BZ| < 1 and > 2, respectively (IMF BZ between −8 and −3 nT and BY > 0). The spatial scales of the discrete optical events were ∼50 km in latitude by ∼500 km in longitude, and their lifetimes were less than 10 min. Electric potential enhancements with peak values in the 30–50 kV range are inferred along the discrete arc in the IMF |BY/BZ| < 1 case from the optical data and across the latitudinal extent of the radar field of view in the |BY/BZ| > 2 case. Joule heat dissipation rates in the maximum phase of the discrete structures of ∼ 100 ergs cm−2 s−1 (0.1 W m−2) are estimated from the photometer intensities and the ion drift data. These observations combined with the additional characteristics of the events, documented here and in several recent studies (i.e., their quasi-periodic nature, their motion pattern relative to the persistent cusp or cleft auroral arc, the strong relationship with the interplanetary magnetic field and the associated ion drift/E field events and ground magnetic signatures), are considered to be strong evidence in favour of a transient, intermittent reconnection process at the dayside magnetopause and associated energy and momentum transfer to the ionosphere in the polar cusp and cleft regions. The filamentary spatial structure and the spectral characteristics of the optical signature indicate associated localized ˜1-kV potential drops between the magnetopause and the ionosphere during the most intense auroral events. The duration of the events compares well with the predicted characteristic times of momentum transfer to the ionosphere associated with the flux transfer event-related current tubes. It is suggested that, after this 2–10 min interval, the sheath particles can no longer reach the ionosphere down the open flux tube, due to the subsequent super-Alfvénic flow along the magnetopause, conductivities are lower and much less momentum is extracted from the solar wind by the ionosphere. The recurrence time (3–15 min) and the local time distribution (∼0900–1500 MLT) of the dayside auroral breakup events, combined with the above information, indicate the important roles of transient magnetopause reconnection and the polar cusp and cleft regions in the transfer of momentum and energy between the solar wind and the magnetosphere.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:38868
Publisher:American Geophysical Union

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