skip to main content

Title: Contribution of Bursty Bulk Flows to the Global Dipolarization of the Magnetotail During an Isolated Substorm

This paper addresses the question of the contribution of azimuthally localized flow channels and magnetic field dipolarizations embedded in them in the global dipolarization of the inner magnetosphere during substorms. We employ the high‐resolution Lyon‐Fedder‐Mobarry global magnetosphere magnetohydrodynamic model and simulate an isolated substorm event, which was observed by the geostationary satellites and by the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft. The results of our simulations reveal that plasma sheet flow channels (bursty bulk flows, BBFs) and elementary dipolarizations (dipolarization fronts, DFs) occur in the growth phase of the substorm but are rare and do not penetrate to the geosynchronous orbit. The substorm onset is characterized by an abrupt increase in the occurrence and intensity of BBFs/DFs, which penetrate well earthward of the geosynchronous orbit during the expansion phase. These azimuthally localized structures are solely responsible for the global (in terms of the magnetic local time) dipolarization of the inner magnetosphere toward the end of the substorm expansion. Comparison with the geostationary satellites and Magnetospheric Multiscale data shows that the properties of the BBFs/DFs in the simulation are similar to those observed, which gives credence to the above results. Additionally, the simulation reveals many previously observed signatures of BBFs and DFs, including overshoots and oscillations around their equilibrium position, strong rebounds and vortical tailward flows, and the corresponding plasma sheet expansion and thinning.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 8647-8668
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The injection region's formation, scale size, and propagation direction have been debated throughout the years, with new questions arising with increased plasma sheet observations by missions like Cluster and THEMIS. How do temporally and spatially small‐scale injections relate to the larger injections historically observed at geosynchronous orbit? How to account for opposing propagation directions—earthward, tailward, and azimuthal—observed by different studies? To address these questions, we used a combination of multisatellite and ground‐based observations to knit together a cohesive story explaining injection formation, propagation, and differing spatial scales and timescales. We used a case study to put statistics into context. First, fast earthward flows with embedded small‐scale dipolarizing flux bundles transport both magnetic flux and energetic particles earthward, resulting in minutes‐long injection signatures. Next, a large‐scale injection propagates azimuthally and poleward/tailward, observed in situ as enhanced flux and on the ground in the riometer signal. The large‐scale dipolarization propagates in a similar direction and speed as the large‐scale electron injection. We suggest small‐scale injections result from earthward‐propagating, small‐scale dipolarizing flux bundles, which rapidly contribute to the large‐scale dipolarization. We suggest the large‐scale dipolarization is the source of the large‐scale electron injection region, such that as dipolarization expands, so does the injection. The >90‐keV ion flux increased and decreased with the plasma flow, which died at the satellites as global dipolarization engulfed them. We suggest the ion injection region at these energies in the plasma sheet is better organized by the plasma flow.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The present study investigates dipolarization signatures in the inner magnetosphere using sharp geosynchronous dipolarizations as a reference. The results are summarized as follows: (1) The region of sharp and structured dipolarizations expands earthward while dipolarizations are sustained at geosynchronous orbit; (2) within 5REfrom Earth, dipolarization signatures are often smooth and gradual, resembling midlatitude positive bays, and they start simultaneously with substorm onsets; (3) off the equator (>0.5RE), sharp dipolarizations often take place before geosynchronous dipolarizations. These results can be explained by a model current system with R1‐sense and R2‐sense current wedges (R1CW and R2CW) if (a) the R1CW, which is located outside, is more intense than the R2CW in total current, (b) the R1CW stays outside of geosynchronous orbit, and (c) the R2CW moves earthward. The model suggests that the region of sharp dipolarizations is confined between the two current wedges, and it expands earthward as the R2CW moves earthward (Result 1). Sufficiently earthward of the R2CW, the remote effect of the R1CW dominates that of the R2CW, and accordingly, magnetic disturbances resemble midlatitude positive bays (Result 2). Since the timing of sharp dipolarizations is determined by the passage of the R2CW, they take place earlier for outer flux tubes. Away from the magnetic equator, sharp dipolarizations can precede geosynchronous dipolarizations especially if the magnetic configuration is stretched (Result 3). Thus, this double‐current wedge model explains the variability of dipolarization signatures at different distances, and it may be regarded as a generalized substorm current wedge model.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The extreme substorm event on 5 April 2010 (THEMIS AL = −2,700 nT, called supersubstorm) was investigated to examine its driving processes, the aurora current system responsible for the supersubstorm, and the magnetosphere‐ionosphere‐thermosphere (M‐I‐T) responses. An interplanetary shock created shock aurora, but the shock was not a direct driver of the supersubstorm onset. Instead, the shock with a large southward IMF strengthened the growth phase with substantially larger ionosphere currents, more rapid equatorward motion of the auroral oval, larger ionosphere conductance, and more elevated magnetotail pressure than those for the growth phase of classical substorms. The auroral brightening at the supersubstorm onset was small, but the expansion phase had multistep enhancements of unusually large auroral brightenings and electrojets. The largest activity was an extremely large poleward boundary intensification (PBI) and subsequent auroral streamer, which started ~20 min after the substorm auroral onset during a steady southward IMFBzand elevated dynamic pressure. Those were associated with a substorm current wedge (SCW), plasma sheet flow, relativistic particle injection and precipitation down to the D‐region, total electron content (TEC), conductance, and neutral wind in the thermosphere, all of which were unusually large compared to classical substorms. The SCW did not extend over the entire nightside auroral activity but was localized azimuthally to a few 100 km in the ionosphere around the PBI and streamer. These results reveal the importance of localized magnetotail reconnection for releasing large energy accumulation that can affect geosynchronous satellites and produce the extreme M‐I‐T responses.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The magnetospheric substorm is a key mode of flux and energy transport throughout the magnetosphere associated with distinct and repeatable magnetotail dynamical processes and plasma injections. The substorm growth phase is characterized by current sheet thinning and magnetic field reconfiguration around the equatorial plane. The global characteristics of current sheet thinning are important for understanding of magnetotail state right before the onset of magnetic reconnection and of the key substorm expansion phase. In this paper, we investigate this thinning at different radial distances using plasma sheet (PS) energetic (>50 keV) electrons that reach from the equator to low altitudes during their fast (∼1 s) travel along magnetic field lines. We perform a multi‐case study and a statistical analysis of 34 events with near‐equatorial observations of the current sheet thinning by equatorial missions and concurrent, latitudinal crossings of the ionospheric projection of the magnetotail by the low‐altitude Electron Losses and Fields Investigation (ELFIN) CubeSats at approximately the same local time sector. Energetic electron fluxes thus collected by ELFIN provide near‐instantaneous (<5 min duration) radial snapshots of magnetotail fluxes. Main findings of this study confirm the previously proposed concepts with low‐altitude energetic electron measurements: (a) Energy distributions of low‐altitude fluxes are quantitatively close to the near‐equatorial distributions, which justifies the investigation of the magnetotail current sheet reconfiguration using low‐altitude measurements. (b) The magnetic field reconfiguration during the current sheet thinning (which lasts ≥ an hour) results in a rapid shrinking of the low‐altitude projection of the entire PS (from near‐Earth, ∼10RE, to the lunar orbit ∼60RE) to 1–2° of magnetic latitude in the ionosphere. (c) The current sheet dipolarization, common during the substorm onset, is associated with a very quick (∼10 min) change of the tail magnetic field configuration to its dipolar state, as implied by a poleward expansion of the PSPS at low altitudes.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Four closely located satellites at and inside geosynchronous orbit (GEO) provided a great opportunity to study the dynamical evolution and spatial scale of premidnight energetic particle injections inside GEO during a moderate substorm on 23 December 2016. Just following the substorm onset, the four spacecraft, a LANL satellite at GEO, the two Van Allen Probes (also called “RBSP”) at ~5.8RE, and a THEMIS satellite at ~5.3RE, observed substorm‐related particle injections and local dipolarizations near the central meridian (~22 MLT) of a wedge‐like current system. The large‐scale evolution of the electron and ion (H, He, and O) injections was almost identical at the two RBSP spacecraft with ~0.5REapart. However, the initial short‐timescale particle injections exhibited a striking difference between RBSP‐A and ‐B: RBSP‐B observed an energy dispersionless injection which occurred concurrently with a transient, strong dipolarization front (DF) with a peak‐to‐peak amplitude of ~25 nT over ~25 s; RBSP‐A measured a dispersed/weaker injection with no corresponding DF. The spatiotemporally localized DF was accompanied by an impulsive, westward electric field (~20 mV m−1). The fast, impulsiveE × Bdrift caused the radial transport of the electron and ion injection regions from GEO to ~5.8RE. The penetrating DF fields significantly altered the rapid energy‐ and pitch angle‐dependent flux changes of the electrons and the H and He ions inside GEO. Such flux distributions could reflect the transient DF‐related particle acceleration and/or transport processes occurring inside GEO. In contrast, O ions were little affected by the DF fields.

    more » « less