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Interhemispheric asymmetries in the occurrence of magnetically conjugate sub-auroral polarisation streams

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • M. L. Parkinson
  • M. Pinnock
  • J. A. Wild
  • M. Lester
  • T. K. Yeoman
  • S. E. Milan
  • H. Ye
  • J. C. Devlin
  • P. L. Dyson
  • T. Kikuchi
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2005
<mark>Journal</mark>Annales Geophysicae
Issue number4
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)1371-1390
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Earthward injections of energetic ions and electrons mark the onset of magnetospheric substorms. In the inner magnetosphere (L∼4), the energetic ions drift westward and the electrons eastward, thereby enhancing the equatorial ring current. Wave-particle interactions can accelerate these particles to radiation belt energies. The ions are injected slightly closer to Earth in the pre-midnight sector, leading to the formation of a radial polarisation field in the inner magnetosphere. This maps to a poleward electric field just equatorward of the auroral oval in the ionosphere. The poleward electric field is subsequently amplified by ionospheric feedback, thereby producing auroral westward flow channels (AWFCs). In terms of electric field strength, AWFCs are the strongest manifestation of substorms in the ionosphere. Because geomagnetic flux tubes are essentially equi-potentials, similar AWFC signatures should be observed simultaneously in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Here we present magnetically conjugate SuperDARN radar observations of AWFC activity observed in the pre-midnight sector during two substorm intervals including multiple onsets during the evening of 30 November 2002. The Northern Hemisphere observations were made with the Japanese radar located at King Salmon, Alaska (57 deg), and the Southern Hemisphere observations with the Tasman International Geospace Environment Radar (TIGER) located at Bruny Island, Tasmania (−55 deg). LANL geosynchronous satellite observations of energetic ion and electron fluxes monitored the effects of substorms in the inner magnetosphere (L∼6). The radar-observed AWFC activity was coincident with activity observed at geosynchronous orbit, as well as westward current surges in the ionosphere observed using ground-based magnetometers. The location of AWFCs with respect to the auroral oval was inferred from FUV auroral images recorded on board the IMAGE spacecraft. DMSP SSIES ion drift mea- surements confirmed the presence of AWFCs equatorward of the auroral oval. Systematic asymmetries in the interhemispheric signatures of the AWFCs probably arose because the magnetic flux tubes were distorted at L shells passing close to the substorm dipolarisation region. Transient asymmetries were attributed to the development of nearby field-aligned potential drops and currents.