Articles | Volume 22, issue 8
Ann. Geophys., 22, 2891–2905, 2004
Ann. Geophys., 22, 2891–2905, 2004

  07 Sep 2004

07 Sep 2004

Pulsed flows at the high-altitude cusp poleward boundary, and associated ionospheric convection and particle signatures, during a Cluster - FAST - SuperDARN- Søndrestrøm conjunction under a southwest IMF

C. J. Farrugia1, E. J. Lund1, P. E. Sandholt2, J. A. Wild3, S. W. H. Cowley3, A. Balogh4, C. Mouikis1, E. Möbius1, M. W. Dunlop5, J.-M. Bosqued6, C. W. Carlson7, G. K. Parks7, J.-C. Cerisier8, J. D. Kelly9, J.-A. Sauvaud6, and H. Rème6 C. J. Farrugia et al.
  • 1Space Science Center and Department of Physics, University of New Hampshire, NH, USA
  • 2Department of Physics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 3Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • 4Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College, London, UK
  • 5Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, Oxford, UK
  • 6Centre d’Etude des Rayonnements Spatiales, Toulouse, France
  • 7Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 8CETP, St-Maur, France
  • 9SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA

Abstract. Particle and magnetic field observations during a magnetic conjunction Cluster 1-FAST-Søndrestrøm within the field of view of SuperDARN radars on 21 January 2001 allow us to draw a detailed, comprehensive and self-consistent picture at three heights of signatures associated with transient reconnection under a steady south-westerly IMF (clock angle ≈130°). Cluster 1 was outbound through the high altitude (~12RE) exterior northern cusp tailward of the bifurcation line (geomagnetic Bx>0) when a solar wind dynamic pressure release shifted the spacecraft into a boundary layer downstream of the cusp. The centerpiece of the investigation is a series of flow bursts observed there by the spacecraft, which were accompanied by strong field perturbations and tailward flow deflections. Analysis shows these to be Alfvén waves. We interpret these flow events as being due to a sequence of reconnected flux tubes, with field-aligned currents in the associated Alfvén waves carrying stresses to the underlying ionosphere, a view strengthened by the other observations. At the magnetic footprint of the region of Cluster flow bursts, FAST observed an ion energy-latitude disperison of the stepped cusp type, with individual cusp ion steps corresponding to individual flow bursts. Simultaneously, the SuperDARN Stokkseyri radar observed very strong poleward-moving radar auroral forms (PMRAFs) which were conjugate to the flow bursts at Cluster. FAST was traversing these PMRAFs when it observed the cusp ion steps. The Søndrestrøm radar observed pulsed ionospheric flows (PIFs) just poleward of the convection reversal boundary. As at Cluster, the flow was eastward (tailward), implying a coherent eastward (tailward) motion of the hypothesized open flux tubes. The joint Søndrestrøm and FAST observations indicate that the open/closed field line boundary was equatorward of the convection reversal boundary by ~2°. The unprecedented accuracy of the conjunction argues strongly for the validity of the interpretation of the various signatures as resulting from transient reconnection. In particular, the cusp ion steps arise on this pass from this origin, in consonance with the original pulsating cusp model. The observations point to the need of extending current ideas on the response of the ionosphere to transient reconnection. Specifically, it argues in favor of re-establishing the high-latitude boundary layer downstream of the cusp as an active site of momentum transfer.