MT-index − a possible new index to characterize the magnetic configuration of magnetotail
Abstract. Existing activity indices (magnetic indices like AE, Kp, Dst or indices based on solar wind parameters) are poor predictors of the instantaneous magnetospheric configuration. We suggest a new activity index – the MT-index. It is defined as the invariant latitude of the isotropic boundary (IB) of ↑100 keV protons reduced to the midnight meridian. This IB is a low-altitude signature of the boundary between regions of adiabatic and chaotic regimes of particle motion in the tail current sheet which is controlled by the magnetic field in the equatorial near-Earth tail (at 5–10Re). We have investigated the local time and activity dependence of the IB latitude based on data from about 2000 orbits of NOAA spacecraft. By finding the formula to reduce the IB latitude to midnight meridian, we then evaluate the accuracy of the derived index. We compared the MT-index with the magnetic field measured simultaneously by geosynchronous GOES-2 spacecraft and showed that, unlike the traditional indices, the MT-index displays a good correlation (r↑0.9) with the magnetic field inclination in the nightside portion of the geosynchronous orbit. It is, thus, a good measure to characterize quantitatively the tailward stretching of the tail magnetic field. Based on the measured MT value, a simple numerical procedure is suggested to choose the version of the T89 magnetospheric model. We conclude that the MT-index is the best known predictor of the instantaneous magnetic configuration in the near-Earth magnetotail. It may be available on a regular basis and can be implemented for scientific studies.