Articles | Volume 25, issue 9
02 Oct 2007
 | 02 Oct 2007

Auroral ion outflow: low altitude energization

K. A. Lynch, J. L. Semeter, M. Zettergren, P. Kintner, R. Arnoldy, E. Klatt, J. LaBelle, R. G. Michell, E. A. MacDonald, and M. Samara

Abstract. The SIERRA nightside auroral sounding rocket made observations of the origins of ion upflow, at topside F-region altitudes (below 700 km), comparatively large topside plasma densities (above 20 000/cc), and low energies (10 eV). Upflowing ions with bulk velocities up to 2 km/s are seen in conjunction with the poleward edge of a nightside substorm arc. The upflow is limited within the poleward edge to a region (a) of northward convection, (b) where Alfvénic and Pedersen conductivities are well-matched, leading to good ionospheric transmission of Alfvénic power, and (c) of soft electron precipitation (below 100 eV). Models of the effect of the soft precipitation show strong increases in electron temperature, increasing the scale height and initiating ion upflow. Throughout the entire poleward edge, precipitation of moderate-energy (100s of eV) protons and oxygen is also observed. This ion precipitation is interpreted as reflection from a higher-altitude, time-varying field-aligned potential of upgoing transversely heated ion conics seeded by the low altitude upflow.