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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 6
Ann. Geophys., 18, 596–607, 2000
© European Geosciences Union 2000
Ann. Geophys., 18, 596–607, 2000
© European Geosciences Union 2000

  30 Jun 2000

30 Jun 2000

New model for auroral acceleration: O-shaped potential structure cooperating with waves

P. Janhunen1 and A. Olsson2,1 P. Janhunen and A. Olsson
  • 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, Geophysical Research, P.O. Box 503, FIN 00101 Helsinki, Finland
  • e-mail:
  • 2Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala Division, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Correspondence to: P. Janhunen

Abstract. There are recent observational indications (lack of convergent electric field signatures above the auroral oval at 4 RE altitude) that the U-shaped potential drop model for auroral acceleration is not applicable in all cases. There is nevertheless much observational evidence favouring the U-shaped model at low altitudes, i.e., in the acceleration region and below. To resolve the puzzle we propose that there is a negative O-shaped potential well which is maintained by plasma waves pushing the electrons into the loss cone and up an electron potential energy hill at ~3-4RE altitude range. We present a test particle simulation which shows that when the wave energization is modelled by random parallel boosts, introducing an O-shaped potential increases the precipitating energy flux because the electrons can stay in the resonant velocity range for a longer time if a downward electric field decelerates the electrons at the same time when waves accelerate them in the parallel direction. The lower part of the O-shaped potential well is essentially the same as in the U-shaped model. The electron energization comes from plasma waves in this model, but the final low-altitude fluxes are produced by electrostatic acceleration. Thus, the transfer of energy from waves to particles takes places in an "energization region", which is above the acceleration region. In the energization region the static electric field points downward while in the acceleration region it points upward. The model is compatible with the large body of low-altitude observations supporting the U-shaped model while explaining the new observations of the lack of electric field at high altitude.

Key words: Ionosphere (ionosphere-magnetosphere interactions; particle acceleration) - Magnetospheric physics (auroral phenomena)

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