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Localized fast flow disturbance observed in the plasma sheet and in the ionosphere

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • R. Nakamura
  • O. Amm
  • H. Laakso
  • N. C. Draper
  • M. Lester
  • A. Grocott
  • B. Klecker
  • I. W. Mccrea
  • A. Balogh
  • H. Rème
  • M. André
Journal publication date28/02/2005
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Number of pages14
Original languageEnglish


An isolated plasma sheet flow burst took place at 22:02 UT, 1 September 2002, when the Cluster footpoint was located within the area covered by the Magnetometers-Ionospheric Radars-All-sky Cameras Large Experiment (MIRACLE). The event was associated with a clear but weak ionospheric disturbance and took place during a steady southward IMF interval, about 1h preceding a major substorm onset. Multipoint observations, both in space and from the ground, allow us to discuss the temporal and spatial scale of the disturbance both in the magnetosphere and ionosphere. Based on measurements from four Cluster spacecraft it is inferred that Cluster observed the dusk side part of a localized flow channel in the plasma sheet with a flow shear at the front, suggesting a field-aligned current out from the ionosphere. In the ionosphere the equivalent current pattern and possible field-aligned current location show a pattern similar to the auroral streamers previously obtained during an active period, except for its spatial scale and amplitude. It is inferred that the footpoint of Cluster was located in the region of an upward field-aligned current, consistent with the magnetospheric observations. The entire disturbance in the ionosphere lasted about 10min, consistent with the time scale of the current sheet disturbance in the magnetosphere. The plasma sheet bulk flow, on the other hand, had a time scale of about 2min, corresponding to the time scale of an equatorward excursion of the enhanced electrojet. These observations confirm that localized enhanced convection in the magnetosphere and associated changes in the current sheet structure produce a signature with consistent temporal and spatial scale at the conjugate ionosphere.

Bibliographic note

© European Geosciences Union 2005