Energetic particles of magnetospheric origin constantly strike the Earth’s upper atmosphere in the polar regions, producing optical emissions known as the aurora. The most spectacular auroral displays are associated with recurrent events called magnetospheric substorms (aka auroral substorms). Substorms are initiated in the nightside magnetosphere on closed magnetic field lines. As a consequence, it is generally thought that auroral substorms should occur in both hemispheres on the same field line (i.e., magnetically conjugated). However, such a hypothesis has not been verified statistically. Here, by analyzing 2659 auroral substorms acquired by the Ultraviolet Imager on board the NASA satellite “Polar”, we have discovered surprising evidence that the averaged location for substorm onsets is not conjugate but shows a geographic preference that cannot be easily explained by current substorm theories. In the Northern Hemisphere (NH) the auroral substorms occur most frequently in Churchill, Canada (~90°W) and Khatanga, Siberia (~100°E), up to three times as often as in Iceland (~22°W). In the Southern Hemisphere (SH), substorms occur more frequently over a location in the Antarctic ocean (~120°E), up to ~4 times more than over the Antarctic Continent. Such a large difference in the longitudinal distribution of north and south onset defies the common belief that substorms in the NH and SH should be magnetically conjugated. A further analysis indicates that these substorm events occurred more frequently when more of the ionosphere was dark. These geographic areas also coincide with regions where the Earth’s magnetic field is largest. These facts suggest that auroral substorms occur more frequently, and perhaps more intensely, when the ionospheric conductivity is lower. With much of the magnetotail energy coming from the solar wind through merging of the interplanetary and Earth’s magnetic field, it is generally thought that the occurrence of substorms is externally controlled by the solar wind and plasma instability in the magnetotail. The present study results provide a strong argument that the ionosphere plays a more active role in the occurrence of substorms.
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Scientific Reports
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
We propose a mechanism for the formation of the horse‐collar auroral configuration during periods of strongly northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), invoking the action of dual‐lobe reconnection (DLR). Auroral observations are provided by the Imager for Magnetopause‐to‐Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite and spacecraft of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). We also use ionospheric flow measurements from DMSP and polar maps of field‐aligned currents (FACs) derived from the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE). Sunward convection is observed within the dark polar cap, with antisunward flows within the horse‐collar auroral region, together with the NBZ FAC distribution expected to be associated with DLR. We suggest that newly closed flux is transported antisunward and to dawn and dusk within the reverse lobe cell convection pattern associated with DLR, causing the polar cap to acquire a teardrop shape and weak auroras to form at high latitudes. Horse‐collar auroras are a common feature of the quiet magnetosphere, and this model provides a first understanding of their formation, resolving several outstanding questions regarding the nature of DLR and the magnetospheric structure and dynamics during northward IMF. The model can also provide insights into the trapping of solar wind plasma by the magnetosphere and the formation of a low‐latitude boundary layer and cold, dense plasma sheet. We speculate that prolonged DLR could lead to a fully closed magnetosphere, with the formation of horse‐collar auroras being an intermediate step.
In this paper, we present a case study of the radial interplanetary magnetic field (IMF
B x)‐induced asymmetric solar wind‐magnetosphere‐ionosphere (SW‐M‐I) coupling between the northern and southern polar caps using ground‐based and satellite‐based data. Under prolonged conditions of strong earthward IMF on 5 March 2015, we find significant discrepancies between polar cap north (PCN) and polar cap south (PCS) magnetic indices with a negative bay‐like change in the PCN and a positive bay‐like change in the PCS. The difference between these indices (PCN‐PCS) reaches a minimum of −1.63 mV/m, which is approximately three times higher in absolute value than the values for most of the time on this day (within ±0.5 mV/m). The high‐latitude plasma convection also shows an asymmetric feature such that there exists an additional convection cell near the noon sector in the northern polar cap, but not in the southern polar cap. Meanwhile, negative bays in the north‐south component of ground magnetic field perturbations (less than 50 nT) observed in the nightside auroral region of the Northern Hemisphere are accompanied with the brightening and widening of the nightside auroral oval in the Southern Hemisphere, implying a weak, but clear energy transfer to the nightside ionosphere of both hemispheres. After the hemispheric asymmetries in the polar caps disappear, a substorm onset takes place. All these observations indicate that IMF B x‐induced single lobe reconnection that occurred in the Northern Hemisphere plays an important role in hemispheric asymmetry in the energy transfer from the solar wind to the polar cap through the magnetosphere.
The space hurricane is a newly discovered large-scale three-dimensional magnetic vortex structure that spans the polar ionosphere and magnetosphere. At the height of the ionosphere, it has a strong circular horizontal plasma flow with a nearly zero-flow center and a coincident cyclone-shaped aurora caused by strong electron precipitation associated with intense upward magnetic field-aligned currents. By analyzing the long-term optical observation onboard the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F16 satellite from 2005 to 2016, we found that space hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere occur in summer and have a maximum occurrence rate in the afternoon sector around solar maximum. In particular, space hurricanes are more likely to occur in the dayside polar cap at magnetic latitudes greater than 80°, and their MLT (magnetic local time) dependence shows a positive relationship with the IMF (interplanetary magnetic field) clock angle. We also found that space hurricanes occur mainly under dominant positive IMF By and Bz and negative Bx conditions. It is suggested that the stable high-latitude lobe reconnection, which occurs under the conditions of a large Earth’s dipole tilt angle and high ionosphere conductivity in summer, should be the formation mechanism of space hurricanes. The result will give a better understanding of the solar wind–magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling process under northward IMF conditions.more » « less
Introduction: Magnetopause reconnection is known to impact the dayside ionosphere by driving fast ionospheric flows, auroral transients, and high-density plasma structures named polar cap patches. However, most of the observed reconnection impact is limited to one hemisphere, and a question arises as to how symmetric the impact is between hemispheres. Methods: We address the question using interhemispheric observations of poleward moving radar auroral forms (PMRAFs), which are a “fossil” signature of magnetopause reconnection, during a geomagnetic storm. We are particularly interested in the temporal repetition and spatial structure of PMRAFs, which are directly affected by the temporal and spatial variation of magnetopause reconnection. PMRAFs are detected and traced using SuperDARN complemented by DMSP, Swarm, and GPS TEC measurements. Results: The results show that PMRAFs occurred repetitively on time scales of about 10 min. They were one-to-one related to pulsed ionospheric flows, and were collocated with polar cap patches embedded in a Tongue of Ionization. The temporal repetition of PMRAFs exhibited a remarkably high degree of correlation between hemispheres, indicating that PMRAFs were produced at a similar rate, or even in close synchronization, in the two hemispheres. However, the spatial structure exhibited significant hemispherical asymmetry. In the Northern Hemisphere, PMRAFs/patches had a dawn-dusk elongated cigar shape that extended >1,000 km, at times reaching >2,000 km, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere, PMRAFs/patches were 2–3 times shorter. Conclusion: The interesting symmetry and asymmetry of PMRAFs suggests that both magnetopause reconnection and local ionospheric conditions play important roles in determining the degree of symmetry of PMRAFs/patches.more » « less