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  1. 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.

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  2. Abstract

    We present high‐resolution Resolute Bay Incoherent Scatter Radar (RISR) measurements in the cusp region during an IMF southward turning. The simultaneous RISR‐N and RISR‐C operation provided 3‐D observations of the dayside polar region, and offered an opportunity to identify the cusp dynamics and polar cap patch formation. Associated with the IMF southward turning, the F‐region density and temperature increased in the cusp, and the increase was particularly evident in the topside ionosphere. The high‐density plasma drifted into the polar cap by an enhanced poleward convection, and became a polar cap patch. The patch plasma was initially dominated by density originating in the cusp, and then later the subauroral ionospheric plasma also contributed to the density enhancement. Weak upflows were present but their contribution within the RISR altitude range was minor. We suggest that the patch source region switches due to dynamic variations of the cusp precipitation and convection from lower latitudes. RISR also detected a flow vortex embedded in the large‐scale convection, which is likely a poleward moving auroral form (PMAF) signature. Joule heating peaked in the cusp E and lower F‐regions. The F‐region Pedersen conductivity increased more than the Hall conductivity, and the high conductivity region extended poleward associated with the patch density enhancement. A 1‐D cusp simulation reproduced the density and temperature enhancements by soft electron precipitation, indicating the importance of soft electron precipitation for the cusp dynamics and the initial part of the patch formation.

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  3. Abstract

    The strongest Southern Hemisphere minor sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) in the last 40 years occurred in September 2019 and resulted in unprecedented weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex. Ionospheric total electron content (TEC) observations are used to provide an overview of statistically significant anomalies in the low‐latitude ionosphere during this event. Quasi‐semidiurnal perturbations of TEC are observed in response to the SSW, similar to those seen during Northern Hemisphere SSWs. Analysis indicates the existence of quasi‐periodic oscillations in TEC in the crests of the equatorial ionization anomaly, with strong 5‐ to 6‐day and 2‐ to 3‐day periodicities. Ionospheric anomalies from the combined effects of multiple mechanisms exceed a factor of 2, comparable to the strongest anomalies associated with Northern Hemisphere SSWs. These results also indicate a remarkable longitudinal variation in the character and magnitude of variations that could be related to a modulation of the non‐migrating diurnal tide.

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  4. Abstract

    Much theoretical and observational work has been devoted to studying the occurrence ofFregion polar cap patches in the Northern Hemisphere; considerably less work has been applied to the Southern Hemisphere. In recent years, the Madrigal database of mappings of total electron content (TEC) has improved in Southern Hemisphere coverage, to the point that we can now carry out a study of patch frequency and occurrence. We find that Southern Hemisphere patch occurrence is very similar to that of the Northern Hemisphere with a half‐year offset, plus an offset in universal time of approximately 12 hr. This is further supported by running an ionospheric model for both hemispheres and applying the same patch‐to‐background technique. Further, we present a simple physical mechanism involving a sunlit dayside plasma source concurrent with a dark polar cap, which yields a patch‐to‐background pattern very much like that seen in the TEC mappings for both hemispheres.

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  5. Abstract

    Using the University Navstar Consortium (UNAVCO) Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver network in North America, we present 2‐D distributions of GPS radio signal scintillation in the mid‐latitude ionosphere during the 7–8 September 2017 storm. The mid‐latitude ionosphere showed a variety of density structures such as the storm enhanced density (SED) base and plume, main trough, secondary plume, and secondary trough during the storm main and early recovery phases. Enhanced phase and amplitude scintillation indices were observed at the density gradients of those structures. SuperDARN radar echoes were also enhanced at the density gradients. The collocation of the scintillation and HF radar echoes indicates that density irregularities developed across a wide range of wavelengths (tens of meters to tens of kilometers) in the mid‐latitude density structures. The density gradients and irregularities were also detected by Swarm and DMSP as in‐situ density structures that disturbed the GPS signals. The irregularities were a substantial fraction (∼10%–50%) of the background density. The density irregularity had a power law spectrum with slope of ∼ −1.8, suggesting that gradient drift instability (GDI) contributed to turbulence formation. Both high‐latitude and low‐latitude processes likely contributed to forming the mid‐latitude density structures, and the mid‐latitude scintillation occurred at the interface of high‐latitude and low‐latitude forcing.

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  6. Abstract

    Evolution of large‐scale and fine‐scale plasmaspheric plume density structures was examined using space‐ground coordinated observations of a plume during the 7–8 September 2015 storm. The large‐scale plasmaspheric plume density at Van Allen Probes A was roughly proportional to the total electron content (TEC) along the satellite footprint, indicating that TEC distribution represents the large‐scale plume density distribution in the magnetosphere. The plasmaspheric plume contained fine‐scale density structures and subauroral polarization streams (SAPS) velocity fluctuations. High‐resolution TEC data support the interpretation that the fine‐scale plume structures were blobs with ∼300 km size and ∼500–800 m/s in the ionosphere (∼3,000 km size and ∼5–8 km/s speed in the magnetosphere), emerging at the plume base and drifting to the plume. The short‐baseline Global Navigation Satellite System receivers detected smaller‐scale (∼10 km in the ionosphere, ∼100 km in the magnetosphere) TEC gradients and their sunward drift. Fine‐scale density structures were associated with enhanced phase scintillation index. Velocity fluctuations were found to be spatial structures of fine‐scale SAPS flows that drifted sunward with density irregularities down to ∼10 s of meter‐scale. Fine‐scale density structures followed a power law with a slope of ∼−5/3, and smaller‐scale density structures developed slower than the larger‐scale structures. We suggest that turbulent SAPS flows created fine‐scale density structures and their cascading to smaller scales. We also found that the plume fine‐scale density structures were associated with whistler‐mode intensity modulation, and localized electron precipitation in the plume. Structured precipitation in the plume may contribute to ionospheric heating, SAPS velocity reduction, and conductance enhancements.

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  7. Abstract

    We examined the source region of dayside large‐scale traveling ionospheric disturbances (LSTIDs) and their relation to cusp energy input. Aurora and total electron content (TEC) observations show that LSTIDs propagate equatorward away from the cusp and demonstrate the cusp region as the source region. Enhanced energy input to the cusp initiated by interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) southward turning triggers the LSTIDs, and each LSTID oscillation is correlated with a TEC enhancement in the dayside oval with tens of minutes periodicity. Equatorward‐propagating LSTIDs are likely gravity waves caused by repetitive heating in the cusp. The cusp source can explain the high LSTID occurrence on the dayside during geomagnetically active times. Poleward‐propagating ΔTEC patterns in the polar cap propagate nearly at the convection speed. While they have similar ΔTEC signatures to gravity wave‐driven LSTIDs, they are suggested to be weak polar cap patches quasiperiodically drifting from the cusp into the polar cap via dayside reconnection.

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  8. 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.

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