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  2. Abstract

    This study investigates the energy spectrum of electron microbursts observed by the Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics II (FIREBIRD‐II, henceforth FIREBIRD) CubeSats. FIREBIRD is a pair of CubeSats, launched in January 2015 into a low Earth orbit, which focuses on studying electron microbursts. High‐resolution electron data from FIREBIRD‐II consist of 5 differential energy channels between 200 keV and 1 MeV and a1 MeV integral channel. This covers an energy range that has not been well studied from low Earth orbit with good energy and time resolution. This study aims to improve the understanding of the scattering mechanism behind electron microbursts by investigating their spectral properties and their relationship with the equatorial electron population under different geomagnetic conditions. Microbursts are identified in the region of the North Atlantic where FIREBIRD only observes electrons in the bounce loss cone. The electron flux and exponential energy spectrum of each microburst are calculated using a FIREBIRD instrument response modeled in GEANT4 (GEometry ANd Tracking) and compared with the near‐equatorial electron spectra measured by the Van Allen Probes. Microbursts occurring when the Auroral Electrojet (AE) index is enhanced tend to carry more electrons with relatively higher energies. The microburst scattering mechanism is more efficient at scattering electrons with lower energies; however, the difference in scattering efficiency between low and high energy is reduced during periods of enhanced AE.

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  3. Abstract

    We analyze the drivers, distribution, and properties of the relativistic electron precipitation (REP) detected near midnight by the Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES) and Meteorological Operational (MetOp) satellites, critical for understanding radiation belt losses and nightside atmospheric energy input. REP is either driven by wave‐particle interactions (isolated precipitation within the outer radiation belt), or current sheet scattering (CSS; precipitation with energy dispersion), or a combination of the two. We evaluate the L‐MLT distribution for the identified REP events in which only one process evidently drove the precipitation (∼10% of the REP near midnight). We show that the two mechanisms coexist and drive precipitation in a broadL‐shell range (4–7). However, wave‐driven REP was also observed atL < 4, whereas CSS‐driven REP was also detected atL > 7. Moreover, we estimate the magnetotail stretching during each REP event using the magnetic field observations from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES). Both wave‐particle interactions and CSS drive REP in association with a stretched magnetotail, although CSS‐driven REP potentially shows more pronounced stretching. Wave‐driven REP events are localized inLshell and often occur on spatial scales of <0.3 L. Using either proton precipitation (observed by POES/MetOp during wave‐driven REP) as a proxy for electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) wave activity or wave observations (from GOES and the Van Allen Probes) at the conjugate event location, we find that ∼73% wave‐driven REP events are associated with EMIC waves.

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  4. Abstract

    We provide evidence that Terrestrial Gamma‐Ray Flashes (TGFs), in well isolated thunderstorms, tend to occur during periods of low and declining flash rates, and when the flash amplitudes are larger than average. This conclusion comes from examining the results of 371 manually tracked TGF‐producing thunderstorms. Fermi‐GBM identified TGFs are used for this analysis and lightning data come from both World Wide Lightning Location Network and Earth Networks Total Lightning Network. The data from these storms suggest that TGFs are likely to occur in almost every phase of storms that last longer than an hour, but tend to occur later on in shorter storms. We also note that, in short storms, TGFs are more likely to accompany a flash when the flash rates of the storm are lower than average, and they are less likely per flash during the peak flash rate periods of the storms. We find that the tendency for TGFs to occur while the flash rate is falling and when the amplitudes of flashes (the sum of the absolute values of peak currents of all constituent sferics in the flash) are larger than average, does not depend strongly on the duration of the storms. This implies that not just any lightning flash can or even will produce a TGF, but that the electrical conditions of the storm play a crucial role in TGF production.

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  5. Abstract

    We evaluate the location, extent, and energy range of electron precipitation driven by ElectroMagnetic Ion Cyclotron (EMIC) waves using coordinated multisatellite observations from near‐equatorial and Low‐Earth‐Orbit (LEO) missions. Electron precipitation was analyzed using the Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range and Dynamics (FIREBIRD‐II) CubeSats, in conjunction either with typical EMIC‐driven precipitation signatures observed by Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES) or with in situ EMIC wave observations from Van Allen Probes. The multievent analysis shows that electron precipitation occurred in a broad region near dusk (16–23 MLT), mostly confined to 3.5–7.5 L‐shells. Each precipitation event occurred on localized radial scales, on average ∼0.3 L. Most importantly, FIREBIRD‐II recorded electron precipitation from ∼200 to 300 keV to the expected ∼MeV energies for most cases, suggesting that EMIC waves can efficiently scatter a wide energy range of electrons.

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  6. Abstract

    This study considers the impact of electron precipitation from Earth's radiation belts on atmospheric composition using observations from the NASA Van Allen Probes and NSF Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics (FIREBIRD II) CubeSats. Ratios of electron flux between the Van Allen Probes (in near‐equatorial orbit in the radiation belts) and FIREBIRD II (in polar low Earth orbit) during spacecraft conjunctions (2015–2017) allow an estimate of precipitation into the atmosphere. Total Radiation Belt Electron Content, calculated from Van Allen Probes RBSP‐ECT MagEIS data, identifies a sustained 10‐day electron loss event in March 2013 that serves as an initial case study. Atmospheric ionization profiles, calculated by integrating monoenergetic ionization rates across the precipitating electron flux spectrum, provide input to the NCAR Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model in order to quantify enhancements of atmospheric HOxand NOxand subsequent destruction of O3in the middle atmosphere. Results suggest that current APEEP parameterizations of radiation belt electrons used in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project may underestimate the duration of events as well as higher energy electron contributions to atmospheric ionization and modeled NOxconcentrations in the mesosphere and upper stratosphere.

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  7. Abstract

    Electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves are known to typically cause electron losses into Earth's upper atmosphere at >~1 MeV, while the minimum energy of electrons subject to efficient EMIC‐driven precipitation loss is unresolved. This letter reports electron precipitation from subrelativistic energies of ~250 keV up to ~1 MeV observed by the Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range and Dynamics (FIREBIRD‐II) CubeSats, while two Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) observed proton precipitation nearby. Van Allen Probe A detected EMIC waves (~0.7–2.0 nT) over the similar L shell extent of electron precipitation observed by FIREBIRD‐II, albeit with a ~1.6 magnetic local time (MLT) difference. Although plasmaspheric hiss and magnetosonic waves were also observed, quasi‐linear calculations indicate that EMIC waves were the most efficient in driving the electron precipitation. Quasi‐linear theory predicts efficient precipitation at >0.8–1 MeV (due to H‐band EMIC waves), suggesting that other mechanisms are required to explain the observed subrelativistic electron precipitation.

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