skip to main content

Title: The Occurrence of Embedded Region 1 and 2 Currents Depends on Geomagnetic Activity Level

Embedded Region 1 and 2 field‐aligned currents (FACs), intense FAC layers of mesoscale latitudinal width near the interface between large‐scale Region 1 and Region 2 FACs, are related to dramatic phenomena in the ionosphere such as discrete arcs, inverted‐V precipitation, and dawnside auroral polarization streams. These relationships suggest that the embedded FACs are potentially important for understanding ionospheric heating and magnetosphere‐ionosphere (M‐I) coupling and instabilities. Previous case studies of embedded FACs have led to the speculation that they may result from enhanced M‐I convection during active times. To explore this idea further, we investigate statistically their occurrence rates under a variety of geomagnetic conditions with a large event list constructed from 17 years of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program observations. The identification procedure is fully automated and explicit. The statistical results indicate that embedded Region 1 and 2 FACs are common, and that they have a higher chance to occur when the level of geomagnetic activity is higher (given by various indices), supporting the idea that they result from enhanced M‐I convection.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1952926 2055192 2332311
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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 diffuse 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.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We present the observational and modeling study focused on the major factors determining the spatiotemporal structure of the high‐latitude ionospheric plasma density enhancement—the tongue of ionization (TOI) structure—during the 2015 St. Patrick's Day geomagnetic storm. We use the Global Self‐consistent Model of the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Protonosphere (GSM TIP) to reproduce the plasma density distribution, and the results are compared with the observational data as deduced from the ground‐based global positioning system total electron content and in situ plasma probe measurements at different altitudes. Both the simulation and observation results show that a large‐scale TOI‐like structure of enhanced plasma density extends from the dayside midlatitude region toward the central polar cap along the antisunward cross‐polar convection flow. We reveal an important role of the clockwise convection cell rotation for the modification of TOI structure. According to model results during the storm main phase, the neutral thermospheric composition, particularly the “tongue” in n(N2), modifies the spatial structure of TOI in such a way that (1) the near‐pole region of enhanced plasma density is shifted to the duskside and, (2) atFregion heights, the TOI is split into the dusk and dawn branches. The signature of TOI in the topside ionosphere considerably differs from that in theFregion because of a lesser influence of the neutral composition changes at higher altitudes. Model results revealed that at plasmaspheric heights, the TOI structure appears in both the dawn and dusk convection cells.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The existence of Birkeland magnetic field‐aligned current (FAC) system was proposed more than a century ago, and it has been of immense interest for investigating the nature of solar wind‐magnetosphere‐ionosphere coupling ever since. In this paper, we present the first application of deep learning architecture for modeling the Birkeland currents using data from the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE). The model uses a 1‐hr time history of several different parameters such as interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), solar wind, and geomagnetic and solar indices as inputs to determine the global distribution of Birkeland currents in the Northern Hemisphere. We present a comparison between our model and bin‐averaged statistical patterns under steady IMF conditions and also when the IMF is variable. Our deep learning model shows good agreement with the bin‐averaged patterns, capturing several prominent large‐scale features such as the Regions 1 and 2 FACs, the NBZ current system, and the cusp currents along with their seasonal variations. However, when IMF and solar wind conditions are not stable, our model provides a more accurate view of the time‐dependent evolution of Birkeland currents. The reconfiguration of the FACs following an abrupt change in IMF orientation can be traced in its details. The magnitude of FACs is found to evolve with e‐folding times that vary with season and MLT. When IMF Bz turns southward after a prolonged northward orientation, NBZ currents decay exponentially with an e‐folding time of25 min, whereas Region 1 currents grow with an e‐folding time of 6–20 min depending on the MLT.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The sub‐auroral polarization stream (SAPS) is a region of westward high velocity plasma convection equatorward of the auroral oval that plays an important role in mid‐latitude space weather dynamics. In this study, we present observations of SAPS flows extending across the North American sector observed during the recovery phase of a minor geomagnetic storm. A resurgence in substorm activity drove a new set of field‐aligned currents (FACs) into the ionosphere, initiating the SAPS. An upward FAC system is the most prominent feature spreading across most SAPS local times, except near dusk, where a downward current system is pronounced. The location of SAPS flows remained relatively constant, firmly inside the trough, independent of the variability in the location and intensity of the FACs. The SAPS flows were sustained even after the FACs weakened and retreated polewards with a decline in geomagnetic activity. The observations indicate that the mid‐latitude trough plays a crucial role in determining the location of the SAPS and that SAPS flows can be sustained even after the magnetospheric driver has weakened.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The formation of polar cap density enhancements, such as tongues‐of‐ionization (TOIs), are often attributed to enhanced dayside reconnection and convection due to solar wind changes. However, ionospheric poleward moving density enhancements can also form in the absence of changes in the solar wind. This study examines how TOI and patch events that are not triggered by solar wind changes relate to magnetospheric processes, specifically substorms. Based on total electron content and Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) observations, we find substorms that occur at the same time as TOIs are associated with sudden enhancements in dayside poleward flows during the substorm expansion phase. Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) observations also show enhanced field‐aligned currents (FACs) that extend into the dayside ionosphere during this period. We suggest that the global enhancement of FACs and convection during these substorms are the drivers of these TOIs by enhancing dayside convection and transporting high‐density lower‐latitude plasma into the polar cap. However, we also find that not all substorms are coincident with polar cap density enhancements. A superposed epoch study showed that the AL index for TOIs during substorms is not particularly stronger than substorms without TOIs, but epoch studies of AMPERE observations do show events with TOIs to have a higher total FAC on both the dayside and nightside. Our results show the importance of TOI formation during substorms when solar wind drivers are absent, and the importance of considering substorms in the global current system. This work also shows the need to incorporate substorms into models of high‐latitude global convection and currents.

    more » « less