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Automated determination of auroral breakup during the substorm expansion phase using all sky imager data

Murphy, K. R., Miles, D. M., Watt, C. E.J., Rae, I. J., Mann, I. R. and Frey, H. U. (2014) Automated determination of auroral breakup during the substorm expansion phase using all sky imager data. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 119 (2). pp. 1414-1427. ISSN 2169-9402

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/2013JA018773


This technique paper describes a novel method for quantitatively and routinely identifying auroral breakup following substorm onset using the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms (THEMIS) all-sky imagers (ASIs). Substorm onset is characterised by a brightening of the aurora that is followed by auroral poleward expansion and auroral breakup. This breakup can be identified by a sharp increase in the auroral intensity i(t) and the time derivative of auroral intensity i'(t). Utilising both i(t) and i'(t) we have developed an algorithm for identifying the time interval and spatial location of auroral breakup during the substorm expansion phase within the field of view of ASI data based solely on quantifiable characteristics of the optical auroral emissions. We compare the time interval determined by the algorithm to independently identified auroral onset times from three previously published studies. In each case the time interval determined by the algorithm is within error of the onset independently identified by the prior studies. We further show the utility of the algorithm by comparing the breakup intervals determined using the automated algorithm to an independent list of substorm onset times. We demonstrate that up to 50% of the breakup intervals characterised by the algorithm are within the uncertainty of the times identified in the independent list. The quantitative description and routine identification of an interval of auroral brightening during the substorm expansion phase provides a foundation for unbiased statistical analysis of the aurora to probe the physics of the auroral substorm as a new scientific tool for aiding the identification of the processes leading to auroral substorm onset.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:36177
Publisher:American Geophysical Union


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