Articles | Volume 24, issue 12
21 Dec 2006
 | 21 Dec 2006

Association of Pi2 pulsations and pulsed reconnection: ground and Cluster observations in the tail lobe at 16 RE

A. Keiling, M. Fujimoto, H. Hasegawa, F. Honary, V. Sergeev, V. S. Semenov, H. U. Frey, O. Amm, H. Rème, I. Dandouras, and E. Lucek

Abstract. Simultaneous measurements from the Cluster spacecraft and several ground stations (SAMNET, IMAGE, Kakioka, Hermanus) provide evidence for an association of Pi2 pulsations and pulsed reconnection in the magnetotail. On 8 September 2002, substorm-related Pi2 pulsations were recorded with the same waveform (same frequency) in the tail lobe at 16 RE and time-delayed on the ground (both nightside and dayside) spanning L values from 1.23 to 6.11. The tail lobe Pi2 pulsations were a series of nightside flux transfer event (NFTE) pulses propagating at a speed of 600–800 km/s towards Earth, which for the first time relates these two magnetospheric phenomena. NFTEs have previously been considered as the remote signature of tail reconnection. The first ground onset of the Pi2 pulsations occurred at high- and midlatitude ground stations with a time delay of ~30 s with respect to the tail lobe Pi2, followed by lower latitude ground stations. The largest pulsations were observed at high latitude (ten times larger than at low latitude) near the polar cap boundary. The polarization pattern of the ground Pi2s in the H-D plane was consistent with a periodically driven field-aligned current (FAC) system. In addition, fast mode waves must have also played a role in the inner magnetosphere because of propagation effects among ground stations and because of the simultaneous occurrence of dayside low-latitude Pi2. Auroral brightening occurred in the region of upflowing FAC, and the auroral electrojet expanded poleward together with the auroral bulge both of which are typical substorm signatures. Hence, we conclude that the substorm-related Pi2 pulsations in space at 16 RE and on the ground were remotely driven by pulsed reconnection in the magnetotail, that is, reconnection not only provided the energy but its temporal variations also determined the characteristic Pi2 frequency. Scenarios are discussed that address the connection of pulsed reconnection and the driven current system in the ionosphere. These results show that reconnection can be coupled to the ionosphere through what is phenomenologically known as Pi2 pulsations. As a corollary, it is shown that the time history of events fits within the modified NENL model of substorms.