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Cusp ion steps, field-aligned currents and poleward moving auroral forms

Lockwood, M. ORCID:, Milan, S. E., Onsager, T., Perry, C. H., Scudder, J. A., Russell, C. T. and Brittnacher, M. (2001) Cusp ion steps, field-aligned currents and poleward moving auroral forms. Journal of Geophysical Research, 106 (A12). pp. 29555-29569. ISSN 0148-0227

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/2000JA900175


We predict the field-aligned currents around cusp ion steps produced by pulsed reconnection between the geomagnetic field and an interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) with a B-Y component that is large in magnitude. For B-Y > 0, patches of newly opened flux move westward and eastward in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, respectively, under the influence of the magnetic curvature force. These flow directions are reversed for B-Y < 0. The speed of this longitudinal motion initially grows with elapsed time since reconnection, but then decays as the newly opened field lines straighten. We predict sheets of field-aligned current on the boundaries between the patches produced by successive reconnection pulses, associated with the difference in the speeds of their longitudinal motion. For low elapsed times since reconnection, near the equatorward edge of the cusp region where the field lines are accelerating, the field-aligned current sheets will be downward or upward in both hemispheres for positive or negative IMF B-Y, respectively. At larger elapsed times since reconnection, as events slow and evolve from the cusp into the mantle region, these field-aligned current directions will be reversed. Observations by the Polar spacecraft on August 26,1998, show the predicted upward current sheets at steps seen in the mantle region for IMF B-Y > 0. Mapped into the ionosphere, the steps coincide with poleward moving events seen by the CUTLASS HF radar. The mapped location of the largest step also coincides with a poleward moving arc seen by the UVI imager on Polar. We show that the arc is consistent with a region of upward field-aligned current that has become unstable, such that a potential drop of about 1 kV formed below the spacecraft. The importance of these observations is that they confirm that the poleward moving events, as seen by the HF radar and the UV imager, are due to pulsed magnetopause reconnection. Milan et al. [2000] noted that the great longitudinal extent of these events means that the required reconnection pulses would have contributed almost all the voltage placed across the magnetosphere at this time. The observations also show that auroral arcs can form on open field lines in response to the pulsed application of voltage at the magnetopause.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:38719
Publisher:American Geophysical Union


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