Articles | Volume 24, issue 2
23 Mar 2006
 | 23 Mar 2006

Substorm onset location and dipole tilt angle

J. Wanliss

Abstract. From an initial data set of over 200 substorms we have studied a subset of 30 magnetospheric substorms close to magnetic midnight to investigate, in a statistical fashion, the source region of the auroral arc that brightens at the onset of expansive phase. This arc is usually identified as the ionospheric signature of the expansive phase onset that occurs in the magnetotail. All the substorm onsets were identified via ground-based magnetometer and photometer data from the CANOPUS array. Various Tsyganenko global magnetic field models were used to map magnetic field lines from the location of the onset arc out to its greatest radial distance in the magnetotail. The results appear to favour the current disruption model of substorms since the average onset location has an average of 14.1 Earth radii (RE) and is therefore more consistent with theories that place the onset location in the inner magnetotail. For the narrow range of tilts available our modeling indicates the parameter that appears to strongly influence the location of the substorm onset is the dipole tilt angle; as tilt becomes less negative onsets occur further downtail.