Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Ann. Geophys., 18, 1009–1026, 2000

Special issue: IXe EISCAT

Ann. Geophys., 18, 1009–1026, 2000

  30 Sep 2000

30 Sep 2000

ESR and EISCAT observations of the response of the cusp and cleft to IMF orientation changes

I. W. McCrea1, M. Lockwood2,1, J. Moen3, F. Pitout4, P. Eglitis4, A. D. Aylward5, J.-C. Cerisier6, A. Thorolfssen6, and S. E. Milan7 I. W. McCrea et al.
  • 1Space Science Department, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Oxon., OX11 0Qx, UK
  • 2Department of Physics and Astronomy, Southampton University, UK
  • 3Arctic Geophysics, University Courses on Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway
  • 4Institutet för Rymdfysik, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 5Atmospheric Physics Laboratory, University College London, UK
  • 6Centre d'étude des Environments Terrestre et Planétaires, F-78140 Velizy, France
  • 7Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, UK
  • Correspondence to: I. W. McCrea

Abstract. We report observations of the cusp/cleft ionosphere made on December 16th 1998 by the EISCAT (European incoherent scatter) VHF radar at Tromsø and the EISCAT Svalbard radar (ESR). We compare them with observations of the dayside auroral luminosity, as seen by meridian scanning photometers at Ny Ålesund and of HF radar backscatter, as observed by the CUTLASS radar. We study the response to an interval of about one hour when the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), monitored by the WIND and ACE spacecraft, was southward. The cusp/cleft aurora is shown to correspond to a spatially extended region of elevated electron temperatures in the VHF radar data. Initial conditions were characterised by a northward-directed IMF and cusp/cleft aurora poleward of the ESR. A strong southward turning then occurred, causing an equatorward motion of the cusp/cleft aurora. Within the equatorward expanding, southward-IMF cusp/cleft, the ESR observed structured and elevated plasma densities and ion and electron temperatures. Cleft ion fountain upflows were seen in association with elevated ion temperatures and rapid eastward convection, consistent with the magnetic curvature force on newly opened field lines for the observed negative IMF By. Subsequently, the ESR beam remained immediately poleward of the main cusp/cleft and a sequence of poleward-moving auroral transients passed over it. After the last of these, the ESR was in the polar cap and the radar observations were characterised by extremely low ionospheric densities and downward field-aligned flows. The IMF then turned northward again and the auroral oval contracted such that the ESR moved back into the cusp/cleft region. For the poleward-retreating, northward-IMF cusp/cleft, the convection flows were slower, upflows were weaker and the electron density and temperature enhancements were less structured. Following the northward turning, the bands of high electron temperature and cusp/cleft aurora bifurcated, consistent with both subsolar and lobe reconnection taking place simultaneously. The present paper describes the large-scale behaviour of the ionosphere during this interval, as observed by a powerful combination of instruments. Two companion papers, by Lockwood et al. (2000) and Thorolfsson et al. (2000), both in this issue, describe the detailed behaviour of the poleward-moving transients observed during the interval of southward Bz, and explain their morphology in the context of previous theoretical work.

Key words: Ionosphere (ionosphere - magnetosphere interactions; auroral ionosphere; plasma temperature and density)

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