Articles | Volume 17, issue 10
31 Oct 1999
31 Oct 1999

Observations of the response time of high-latitude ionospheric convection to variations in the interplanetary magnetic field using EISCAT and IMP-8 data

H. Khan and S. W. H. Cowley

Abstract. We have combined ~300 h of tristatic measurements of the field-perpendicular F region ionospheric flow measured overhead at Tromsø by the EISCAT UHF radar, with simultaneous IMP-8 measurements of the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) upstream of the Earth's magnetosphere, in order to examine the response time of the ionospheric flow to changes in the north-south component of the IMF (Bz). In calculating the flow response delay, the time taken by field changes observed by the spacecraft to first effect the ionosphere has been carefully estimated and subtracted from the response time. Two analysis methods have been employed. In the first, the flow data were divided into 2 h-intervals of magnetic local time (MLT) and cross-correlated with the "half-wave rectifier" function V2Bs, where V is the solar wind speed, and Bs is equal to IMF Bz if the latter is negative, and is zero otherwise. Response delays, determined from the time lag of the peak value of the cross-correlation coefficient, were computed versus MLT for both the east-west and north-south components of flow. The combined data set suggests minimum delays at ~1400 MLT, with increased response times on the nightside. For the 12-h sector centred on 1400 MLT, the weighted average response delay was found to be 1.3 ± 0.8 min, while for the 12-h sector centred on 0200 MLT the weighted average delay was found to increase to 8.8 ± 1.7 min. In the second method we first inspected the IMF data for sharp and enduring (at least ~5 min) changes in polarity of the north-south component, and then examined concurrent EISCAT flow data to determine the onset time of the corresponding enhancement or decay of the flow. For the case in which the flow response was timed from whichever of the flow components responded first, minimum response delays were again found at ~1400 MLT, with average delays of 4.8 ± 0.5 min for the 12-h sector centred on 1400 MLT, increasing to 9.2 ± 0.8 min on the nightside. The response delay is thus found to be reasonably small at all local times, but typically ~6 min longer on the nightside compared with the dayside. In order to make an estimate of the ionospheric information propagation speed implied by these results, we have fitted a simple theoretical curve to the delay data which assumes that information concerning the excitation and decay of flow propagates with constant speed away from some point on the equatorward edge of the dayside open-closed field line boundary, taken to lie at 77° magnetic latitude. For the combined cross-correlation results the best-fit epicentre of information propagation was found to be at 1400 MLT, with an information propagation phase speed of 9.0 km s–1. For the combined event analysis, the best-fit epicentre was also found to be located at 1400 MLT, with a phase speed of 6.8 km s–1.

Key words. Interplanetary physics (interplanetary magnetic fields) · Magnetospheric physics (Plasma convection; solar wind · magnetosphere interactions)