Articles | Volume 22, issue 2
01 Jan 2004
 | 01 Jan 2004

Effects of energetic electrons on the electrodynamics in the ionosphere

A. Aksnes, J. Stadsnes, G. Lu, N. Østgaard, R. R. Vondrak, D. L. Detrick, T. J. Rosenberg, G. A. Germany, and M. Schulz

Abstract. From the observations by the PIXIE and UVI cameras on board the Polar satellite, we derive global maps of the precipitating electron energy spectra from less than 1keV to 100keV. Based on the electron spectra, we generate instantaneous global maps of Hall and Pedersen conductances. The UVI camera provides good coverage of the lower electron energies contributing most to the Pedersen conductance, while PIXIE captures the high energy component of the precipitating electrons affecting the Hall conductance. By characterizing the energetic electrons from some tens of keV and up to about 100keV using PIXIE X-ray measurements, we will, in most cases, calculate a larger electron flux at higher energies than estimated from a simple extrapolation of derived electron spectra from UVI alone. Instantaneous global conductance maps derived with and without inclusion of PIXIE data have been implemented in the Assimilative Mapping of Ionospheric Electrodynamics (AMIE) procedure, to study the effects of energetic electrons on electrodynamical parameters in the ionosphere. We find that the improved electron spectral characterization using PIXIE data most often results in a larger Hall conductance and a smaller inferred electric field. In some localized regions the increase in the Hall conductance can exceed 100%. On the contrary, the Pedersen conductance remains more or less unaffected by the inclusion of the PIXIE data. The calculated polar cap potential drop may decrease more than 10%, resulting in a reduction of the estimated Joule heating integrated over the Northern Hemisphere by up to 20%. Locally, Joule heating may decrease more than 50% in some regions. We also find that the calculated energy flux by precipitating electrons increases around 5% when including the PIXIE data. Combined with the reduction of Joule heating, this results in a decrease in the ratio between Joule heating and energy flux, sometimes exceeding 25%. An investigation of the relationship between Joule heating and the AE index shows a nearly linear correspondence between the two quantities, in accordance with previous studies. However, we find lower proportionality factors than reported by others when taking geomagnetic conditions into account, ranging between 0.13 and 0.23GW/nT. We also find that the contribution from auroral particles to the energy budget is more important than most previous studies have reported.

Key words. Ionosphere (auroral ionosphere; particle precipitation) – Magnetospheric physics (storms and substorms)