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Characteristics of pseudobreakups and substorms observed in the ionosphere, at the geosynchronous orbit, and in the midtail

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  • A.T. Aikio
  • V.A. Sergeev
  • M.A. Shukhtina
  • L.I. Vagina
  • V. Angelopoulos
  • G.D. Reeves
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/1999
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue numberA6
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)12263-12287
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We present a comprehensive study of a sequence of two substorms and multiple pseudobreakups using optical, magnetic and incoherent scatter radar measurements, energetic particles from two geosynchronous satellites and particle and field data from the Geotail spacecraft located at Xgsm ∼ −86 RE. Following conventional nomenclature, we classified as pseudobreakups those auroral breakups which did not exhibit significant poleward expansion (< 2° magnetic latitude). Auroral intensifications following substorm breakups were also observed, and were classified separately. Pseudobreakups were found not to differ from substorm breakups in longitudinal extent (from 1.3 to 6.1 hours of magnetic local time), or in duration (from 5 to 16 minutes). In general, the ionospheric currents producing ground magnetic disturbances were more intense during substorms than pseudobreakups. We found that pseudobreakups are associated with the same magnetospheric processes as substorm breakups which involve current wedge formation, midlatitude magnetic Pi2 pulsations and energetic particle injections at the geosynchronous altitude. Moreover, pseudobreakups are associated with magnetic reconnection in the near-Earth region, evidenced by the typical subsequent detection of a plasmoid at Geotail. This implies that the magnetotail volume influenced by a pseudobreakup is quite large in radial distance. We conclude that there is no definitive qualitative distinction between pseudobreakups and substorms but there is a continuum of states between the small pseudobreakups and large substorms.

Bibliographic note

An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright (1999) American Geophysical Union