Articles | Volume 21, issue 3
31 Mar 2003
 | 31 Mar 2003

April 2000 geomagnetic storm: ionospheric drivers of large geomagnetically induced currents

A. Pulkkinen, A. Thomson, E. Clarke, and A. McKay

Abstract. Geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) flowing in technological systems on the ground are a direct manifestation of space weather. Due to the proximity of very dynamic ionospheric current systems, GIC are of special interest at high latitudes, where they have been known to cause problems, for example, for normal operation of power transmission systems and buried pipelines. The basic physics underlying GIC, i.e. the magnetosphere – ionosphere interaction and electromagnetic induction in the ground, is already quite well known. However, no detailed study of the drivers of GIC has been carried out and little is known about the relative importance of different types of ionospheric current systems in terms of large GIC. In this study, the geomagnetic storm of 6–7 April 2000 is investigated. During this event, large GIC were measured in technological systems, both in Finland and in Great Britain. Therefore, this provides a basis for a detailed GIC study over a relatively large regional scale. By using GIC data and corresponding geomagnetic data from north European magnetometer networks, the ionospheric drivers of large GIC during the event were identified and analysed. Although most of the peak GIC during the storm were clearly related to substorm intensifications, there were no common characteristics discernible in substorm behaviour that could be associated with all the GIC peaks. For example, both very localized ionospheric currents structures, as well as relatively large-scale propagating structures were observed during the peaks in GIC. Only during the storm sudden commencement at the beginning of the event were large-scale GIC evident across northern Europe with coherent behaviour. The typical duration of peaks in GIC was also quite short, varying between 2–15 min.

Key words. Geomagnetism and paleo-magnetism (geomagnetic induction) – Ionosphere (ionospheric disturbances) – Magnetospheric physics (storms and substorms)