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

The effect of magnetic substorms on near-ground atmospheric current

E. Belova, S. Kirkwood, and H. Tammet

Abstract. Ionosphere-magnetosphere disturbances at high latitudes, e.g. magnetic substorms, are accompanied by energetic particle precipitation and strong variations of the ionospheric electric fields and currents. These might reasonably be expected to modify the local atmospheric electric circuit. We have analysed air-earth vertical currents (AECs) measured by a long wire antenna at Esrange, northern Sweden during 35 geomagnetic substorms. Using superposed epoch analysis we compare the air-earth current variations during the 3 h before and after the time of the magnetic X-component minimum with those for corresponding local times on 35 days without substorms. After elimination of the average daily variation we can conclude that the effect of substorms on AEC is small but distinguishable. It is speculated that the AEC increases observed during about 2 h prior to the geomagnetic X-component minimum, are due to enhancement of the ionospheric electric field. During the subsequent 2 h of the substorm recovery phase, the difference between "substorm" and "quiet" atmospheric currents decreases. The amplitude of this "substorm" variation of AEC is estimated to be less than 50% of the amplitude of the diurnal variation in AEC during the same time interval. The statistical significance of this result was confirmed using the Van der Waerden X-test. This method was further used to show that the average air-earth current and its fluctuations increase during late expansion and early recovery phases of substorms.

Key words: Ionosphere (electric fields and currents) · Magnetospheric physics (storms and substorms) · Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (atmospheric electricity)