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Title: Dynamics of Auroral Precipitation Boundaries Associated With STEVE and SAID

Using Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite observations and ground‐based observations by the THEMIS all‐sky imagers (ASIs) and SuperDARN radars, we determine how the equatorward boundary locations of ring current ions and plasma sheet electrons at pre‐midnight relate to occurrence of strong thermal emission velocity enhancement (STEVE) and intense subauroral ion drifts (SAID) during substorms. We found that the STEVE events are associated with a sharper gradient of electron precipitating flux, lower precipitating ion flux, and a narrower (<1°) latitudinal gap between the equatorward boundaries of trapped ring current ions and precipitating plasma sheet electrons and narrower region‐2 field‐aligned currents (FACs) than for the non‐STEVE events. The narrow gap of the particle boundaries contains intense SAID, higher upflow velocity, lower trough density, and slightly higher electron temperature than those for the non‐STEVE events. The non‐STEVE substorms have much wider gaps between the trapped ions and precipitating electrons, and subauroral polarization streams (SAPS) do not show intense SAID. These results indicate that subauroral flows and downward FACs for the STEVE events can only flow within the latitudinally narrow subauroral low‐conductance region between the ion and electron boundaries, resulting in intense SAID and heating. more » During the non‐STEVE events, the SAPS flows can flow in the latitudinally wide region without forming intense SAID.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    To understand magnetosphere‐ionosphere conditions that result in thermal emission velocity enhancement (STEVE) and subauroral ion drifts (SAID) during the substorm recovery phase, we present substorm aurora, particle injection, and current systems during two STEVE events. Those events are compared to substorm events with similar strength but without STEVE. We found that the substorm surge and intense upward currents for the events with STEVE reach the dusk, while those for the non‐STEVE substorms are localized around midnight. The Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellite observations show that location of particle injection and fast plasma sheet flows for the STEVE events also shifts duskward. Electron injection is stronger and ion injection is weaker for the STEVE events compared to the non‐STEVE events. SAID are measured by Super Dual Auroral Radar Network during the STEVE events, but the non‐STEVE events only showed latitudinally wide subauroral polarization streams without SAID. To interpret the observations, Rice Convection Model (RCM) simulations with injection at premidnight and midnight have been conducted. The simulations successfully explain the stronger electron injection, weaker ion injection, and formation of SAID for injection at premidnight, because injected electrons reach the premidnight inner magnetosphere and form amore »narrower separation between the ion and electron inner boundaries. We suggest that substorms and particle injections extending far duskward away from midnight offer a condition for creating STEVE and SAID due to stronger electron injection to premidnight. The THEMIS all‐sky imager network identified the east‐west length of the STEVE arc to be ~1900 km (~2.5 h magnetic local time) and the duration to be 1–1.5 h.

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  2. Abstract

    The role of diffuse electron precipitation in the formation of subauroral polarization streams (SAPS) is investigated with the Multiscale Atmosphere‐Geospace Environment (MAGE) model. Diffuse precipitation is derived from the distribution of drifting electrons. SAPS manifest themselves as a separate mesoscale flow channel in the duskside ionosphere, which gradually merges with the primary auroral convection toward dayside as the equatorward auroral boundary approaches the poleward Region‐2 field‐aligned currents (FACs) boundary. SAPS expand to lower latitudes and toward the nightside during the main phase of a geomagnetic storm, associated with magnetotail earthward plasma flows building up the ring current and intensifying Region‐2 FACs and electron precipitation. SAPS shrink poleward and sunward as the interplanetary magnetic field turns northward. When diffuse precipitation is turned off in a controlled MAGE simulation, ring current and duskside Region‐2 FACs become weaker, but subauroral zonal ion drifts are still comparable to auroral convection. However, subauroral and auroral convection manifest as a single broad flow channel without showing any mesoscale structure. SAPS overlap with the downward Region‐2 FACs equatorward of diffuse precipitation, where poleward electric fields are strong due to a low conductance in the subauroral ionosphere. The Region‐2 FACs extend to latitudes lower than the diffusemore »precipitation because the ring current protons penetrate closer to the Earth than the electrons do. This study reproduces the key physics of SAPS formation and their evolution in the coupled magnetosphere‐ionosphere during a geomagnetic storm. Diffuse electron precipitation is demonstrated to play a critical role in determining SAPS location and structure.

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  3. Abstract

    We present three STEVE (strong thermal emission velocity enhancement) events in conjunction with Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions (THEMIS) in the magnetosphere and Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and Swarm in the ionosphere, for determining equatorial and interhemispheric signatures of the STEVE purple/mauve arc and picket fence. Both types of STEVE emissions are associated with subauroral ion drifts (SAID), electron heating, and plasma waves. The magnetosphere observations show structured electrons and flows and waves (likely kinetic Alfven, magnetosonic, or lower‐hybrid waves) just outside the plasmasphere. Interestingly, the event with the picket fence had a >~1 keV electron structure detached from the electron plasma sheet, upward field‐aligned currents (FACs), and ultraviolet emissions in the conjugate hemisphere, while the event with only the mauve arc did not have precipitation or ultraviolet emission. We suggest that the electron precipitation drives the picket fence, and heating drives the mauve as thermal emission.

  4. Abstract

    Inner‐magnetospheric conditions for subauroral polarization streams (SAPS) and subauroral ion drifts (SAID) have been investigated statistically using Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms and RBSP observations. We found that plasma sheet electron fluxes at its earthward edge are larger for SAID than SAPS. The ring current ion flux for SAID formed a local maximum near SAID, but the ion flux for SAID was not necessarily larger than for SAPS. The median potential drop across SAID and SAPS is nearly the same, but the potential drop for intense SAID is substantially larger than that for SAPS. The plasmapause is sharper and electromagnetic waves were more intense for SAID. The SAID velocity peak does not strongly correlate with solar wind or geomagnetic indices. These results indicate that local plasma structures are more important for SAPS/SAID velocity characteristics as compared to global magnetospheric conditions.

  5. Abstract

    Intense sunward (westward) plasma flows, named Subauroral Polarization Stream (SAPS), have been known to occur equatorward of the electron auroras for decades, yet their effect on the upper thermosphere has not been well understood. On the one hand, the large velocity of SAPS results in large momentum exchange upon each ion‐neutral collision. On the other hand, the low plasma density associated with SAPS implies a low ion‐neutral collision frequency. We investigate the SAPS effect during non‐storm time by utilizing a Scanning Doppler Imager (SDI) for monitoring the upper thermosphere, SuperDARN radars for SAPS, all‐sky imagers and DMSP Spectrographic Imager for the auroral oval, and GPS receivers for the total electron content. Our observations suggest that SAPS at times drives substantial (>50 m/s) westward winds at subauroral latitudes in the dusk‐midnight sector, but not always. The occurrence of the westward winds varies withAEindex, plasma content in the trough, and local time. The latitudinally averaged wind speed varies from 60 to 160 m/s, and is statistically 21% of the plasma. These westward winds also shift to lower latitude with increasingAEand increasing MLT. We do not observe SAPS driving poleward wind surges, neutral temperature enhancements, or acoustic‐gravity waves, likely due to the somewhat weakmore »forcing of SAPS during the non‐storm time.

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