Thermospheric Control of the Auroral Source of O+Ions for the Magnetosphere
Lockwood, M. (1984) Thermospheric Control of the Auroral Source of O+Ions for the Magnetosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research, 89 (A1). pp. 301-315. ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/JA089iA01p00301
Linear theory, model ion-density profiles and MSIS neutral thermospheric predictions are used to investigate the stability of the auroral, topside ionosphere to oxygen cyclotron waves: variations of the critical height, above which the plasma is unstable, with field-aligned current, thermal ion density and exospheric temperature are considered. In addition, probabilities are assessed that interactions with neutral atomic gases prevent O+ ions from escaping into the magnetosphere after they have been transversely accelerated by these waves. The two studies are combined to give a rough estimate of the total O+ escape flux as a function of the field-aligned current density for an assumed rise in the perpendicular ion temperature. Charge exchange with neutral oxygen, not hydrogen, is shown to be the principle limitation to the escape of O+ ions, which occurs when the waves are driven unstable down to low altitudes. It is found that the largest observed field-aligned current densities can heat a maximum of about 5×1014 O+ ions m−2 to a threshold above which they are subsequently able to escape into the magnetosphere in the following 500s. Averaged over this period, this would constitute a flux of 1012 m−2 s−1 and in steady-state the peak outflow would then be limited to about 1013 m−2 s−1 by frictional drag on thermal O+ at lower altitudes. Maximum escape is at low plasma density unless the O+ scale height is very large. The outflow decreases with decreasing field-aligned current density and, to a lesser extent, with increasing exospheric temperature. Upward flowing ion events are evaluated as a source of O+ ions for the magnetosphere and as an explanation of the observed solar cycle variation of ring current O+ abundance.