Articles | Volume 18, issue 12
31 Dec 2000
31 Dec 2000

Two-dimensional electric field measurements in the ionospheric footprint of a flux transfer event

K. A. McWilliams, T. K. Yeoman, and S. W. H. Cowley

Abstract. Line-of-sight Doppler velocities from the SuperDARN CUTLASS HF radar pair have been combined to produce the first two-dimensional vector measurements of the convection pattern throughout the ionospheric footprint of a flux transfer event (a pulsed ionospheric flow, or PIF). Very stable and moderate interplanetary magnetic field conditions, along with a preceding prolonged period of northward interplanetary magnetic field, allow a detailed study of the spatial and the temporal evolution of the ionospheric response to magnetic reconnection. The flux tube footprint is tracked for half an hour across six hours of local time in the auroral zone, from magnetic local noon to dusk. The motion of the footprint of the newly reconnected flux tube is compared with the ionospheric convection velocity. Two primary intervals in the PIF's evolution have been determined. For the first half of its lifetime in the radar field of view the phase speed of the PIF is highly variable and the mean speed is nearly twice the ionospheric convection speed. For the final half of its lifetime the phase velocity becomes much less variable and slows down to the ionospheric convection velocity. The evolution of the flux tube in the magnetosphere has been studied using magnetic field, magnetopause and magnetosheath models. The data are consistent with an interval of azimuthally propagating magnetopause reconnection, in a manner consonant with a peeling of magnetic flux from the magnetopause, followed by an interval of anti-sunward convection of reconnected flux tubes.

Key words: Magnetospheric physics (magnetosphere · ionosphere interactions; plasma convection; solar wind · magnetosphere interactions)