Articles | Volume 23, issue 7
14 Oct 2005
 | 14 Oct 2005

Superposed epoch analysis of dense plasma access to geosynchronous orbit

B. Lavraud, M. H. Denton, M. F. Thomsen, J. E. Borovsky, and R. H. W. Friedel

Abstract. We report on the occurrence of dense plasma access to geosynchronous orbit. We performed a superposed epoch analysis of 1464 events of dense (>2 cm–3 at onset) plasma observed by the MPA instruments on board the Los Alamos satellites, for the period 1990–2002. The results allow us to study the temporal evolution of various plasma parameters as a function of local time. We show that dense plasma access to geosynchronous orbit mostly occurs near local midnight. This dense plasma population is shown to be freshly injected from the mid-tail region, colder than the typical plasma sheet and composed of a relatively small O+ component. This population is thus probably the result of a cold, dense plasma sheet (CDPS) injection from the mid-tail region. Cold and dense ion populations are also observed on the dawnside of geosynchronous orbit at a similar epoch time. However, we demonstrate that this latter population is not the result of the dawnward transport of the population detected near midnight. The properties of this ion population may arise from the contribution of both ionospheric upflows and precipitating plasma sheet material. The correlation of an enhanced Kp index with the arrival of the CDPS at geosynchronous orbit shows that the inward transport of this population is allowed by an enhanced magnetospheric convection. Surprisingly, this dense plasma does not, in general, lead to a stronger Dst (ring current strength) within the 12 h following the CDPS injection. It is noted, however, that the superposed Kp index returns to relatively low values soon after the arrival of the CDPS. This may suggest that the dense plasma is, given the average of the 1464 events of this study, only transiting through geosynchronous orbit without accessing the inner regions and, therefore, does not contribute to the ring current.

Keywords. Magnetospheric physics (Plasma convection; Plasma sheet) – Space plasma physics (Transport processes)