Articles | Volume 23, issue 6
15 Sep 2005
 | 15 Sep 2005

Statistical study of the substorm onset: its dependence on solar wind parameters and solar illumination

H. Wang, H. Lühr, S. Y. Ma, and P. Ritter

Abstract. Based on 1829 well-defined substorm onsets in the Northern Hemisphere, observed during a 2-year period by the FUV Imager on board the IMAGE spacecraft, a statistical study is performed. From the combination of solar wind parameter observations by ACE and magnetic field observations by the low altitude satellite CHAMP, the location of auroral breakups in response to solar illumination and solar coupling parameters are studied. Furthermore, the correspondence of the onset location with prominent large-scale field-aligned currents and electrojets are investigated. Solar illumination and the related ionospheric conductivity have significant effects on the most probable substorm onset latitude and local time. In sunlight, substorm onsets tend to occur 1h earlier in local time and 1.5° more poleward than in darkness. The solar wind input, represented by the merging electric field, integrated over 1h prior to the substorm, correlates well with the latitude of the breakup. Most poleward latitudes of the onsets are found to range around 73° magnetic latitude during very quiet times. Field-aligned and Hall currents observed concurrently with the onset are consistent with the signature of a westward travelling surge evolving out of the Harang discontinuity. The observations suggest that the ionospheric conductivity has an influence on the location of the precipitating energetic electron which causes the auroral break-up signature.

Keywords. Ionosphere (Auroral ionosphere) – Magnetospheric Physics (Current systems; Magnetosphereionosphere interactions)