University of Leicester
angeo-22-1799-2004.pdf (6 MB)

Magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling currents in Jupiter's middle magnetosphere: effect of precipitation-induced enhancement of the ionospheric Pedersen conductivity

Download (6 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2017-03-28, 08:30 authored by J. D. Nichols, S. W. H. Cowley
We consider the effect of precipitation-induced enhancement of the Jovian ionospheric Pedersen conductivity on the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling current system which is associated with the breakdown of the corotation of iogenic plasma in Jupiter's middle magnetosphere. In previous studies the Pedersen conductivity has been taken to be simply a constant, while it is expected to be significantly enhanced in the regions of upward-directed auroral field-aligned current, implying downward precipitating electrons. We develop an empirical model of the modulation of the Pedersen conductivity with field-aligned current density based on the modelling results of Millward et al. and compute the currents flowing in the system with the conductivity self-consistently dependent on the auroral precipitation. In addition, we consider two simplified models of the conductivity which provide an insight into the behaviour of the solutions. We compare the results to those obtained when the conductivity is taken to be constant, and find that the empirical conductivity model helps resolve some outstanding discrepancies between theory and observation of the plasma angular velocity and current system. Specifically, we find that the field-aligned current is concentrated in a peak of magnitude ~0.25µAm-2 in the inner region of the middle magnetosphere at ~20 RJ, rather than being more uniformly distributed as found with constant conductivity models. This peak maps to ~17° in the ionosphere, and is consistent with the position of the main oval auroras. The energy flux associated with the field-aligned current is ~10mWm-2 (corresponding to a UV luminosity of ~100kR), in a region ~0.6° in width, and the Pedersen conductivity is elevated from a background of ~0.05mho to ~0.7mho. Correspondingly, the total equatorial radial current increases greatly in the region of peak field-aligned current, and plateaus with increasing distance thereafter. This form is consistent with the observed profile of the current derived from Galileo magnetic field data. In addition, we find that the solutions using the empirical conductivity model produce an angular velocity profile which maintains the plasma near to rigid corotation out to much further distances than the constant conductivity model would suggest. Again, this is consistent with observations. Our results therefore suggest that, while the constant conductivity solutions provide an important indication that the main oval is indeed a result of the breakdown of the corotation of iogenic plasma, they do not explain the details of the observations. In order to resolve some of these discrepancies, one must take into account the elevation of the Pedersen conductivity as a result of auroral electron precipitation.


JDN was supported during the course of this study by a PPARC Quota Studentship, and SWHC by PPARC Senior Fellowship PPA/N/S/2000/00197.



Annales Geophysicae, 2004, 22 (5), pp. 1799-1827 (29)

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Annales Geophysicae


European Geosciences Union (EGU), Copernicus Publications, Springer Verlag (Germany)





Copyright date


Available date


Publisher version