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Substorm Onset Latitude and the Steadiness of Magnetospheric Convection

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-05-24, 14:22 authored by SE Milan, MT Walach, JA Carter, H Sangha, BJ Anderson
We study the role of substorms and steady magnetospheric convection (SMC) in magnetic flux transport in the magnetosphere, using observations of field-aligned currents by the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment. We identify two classes of substorm, with onsets above and below 65° magnetic latitude, which display different nightside field-aligned current morphologies. We show that the low-latitude onsets develop a poleward-expanding auroral bulge, and identify these as substorms that manifest ionospheric convection-braking in the auroral bulge region as suggested by Grocott et al. (2009, We show that the high-latitude substorms, which do not experience braking, can evolve into SMC events if the interplanetary magnetic field remains southward for a prolonged period following onset. We conclude that during periods of ongoing driving, the magnetosphere displays repeated substorm activity or SMC depending on the rate of driving and the open magnetic flux content of the magnetosphere prior to onset. We speculate that sawtooth events are an extreme case of repeated onsets and that substorms triggered by northward-turnings of the interplanetary magnetic field mark the cessation of periods of SMC. Our results provide a new explanation for the differing modes of response of the terrestrial system to solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling by invoking friction between the ionosphere and atmosphere.


S.E.M. and J.A.C. were supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), UK, grant no. ST/N000749/1; H.S. was supported by an STFC studentship. M.T.W. was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK, grant no. NE/P001556/1. The work at the Birkeland Centre for Space Centre, University of Bergen, Norway, was supported by the Research Council of Norway/CoE under contract 223252/F50. We thank the AMPERE team and the AMPERE Science Center for providing the Iridium‐derived data products; AMPERE products are available online ( The OMNI data, including solar wind parameters and geomagnetic indices, were obtained from the GSFC/SPDF OMNIWeb interface (at The SuperMAG indices and substorm list was downloaded online ( For the ground magnetometer data from which these were derived, we gratefully acknowledge: Intermagnet; USGS, Jeffrey J. Love; CARISMA, PI Ian Mann; CANMOS; The S‐RAMP Database, PI K. Yumoto and K. Shiokawa; The SPIDR database; AARI, PI Oleg Troshichev; The MACCS program, PI M. Engebretson, Geomagnetism Unit of the Geological Survey of Canada; GIMA; MEASURE, UCLA IGPP and Florida Institute of Technology; SAMBA, PI Eftyhia Zesta; 210 Chain, PI K. Yumoto; SAMNET, PI Farideh Honary; The institutes who maintain the IMAGE magnetometer array, PI Eija Tanskanen; PENGUIN; AUTUMN, PI Martin Connors; DTU Space, PI Dr. Juergen Matzka; South Pole and McMurdo Magnetometer, PI's Louis J. Lanzarotti and Alan T. Weatherwax; ICESTAR; RAPIDMAG; PENGUIn; British Artarctic Survey; McMac, PI Peter Chi; BGS, PI Susan Macmillan; Pushkov Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation (IZMIRAN); GFZ, PI Juergen Matzka; MFGI, PI B. Heilig; IGFPAS, PI J. Reda; University of L'Aquila, PI M. Vellante; SuperMAG, PI Jesper W. Gjerloev.



Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2019, 124(3), pp. 1738-1752

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


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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics


American Geophysical Union (AGU), Wiley





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