Articles | Volume 26, issue 9
12 Sep 2008
 | 12 Sep 2008

High-latitude plasma convection during Northward IMF as derived from in-situ magnetospheric Cluster EDI measurements

M. Förster, S. E. Haaland, G. Paschmann, J. M. Quinn, R. B. Torbert, H. Vaith, and C. A. Kletzing

Abstract. In this study, we investigate statistical, systematic variations of the high-latitude convection cell structure during northward IMF. Using 1-min-averages of Cluster/EDI electron drift observations above the Northern and Southern polar cap areas for six and a half years (February 2001 till July 2007), and mapping the spatially distributed measurements to a common reference plane at ionospheric level in a magnetic latitude/MLT grid, we obtained regular drift patterns according to the various IMF conditions. We focus on the particular conditions during northward IMF, where lobe cells at magnetic latitudes >80° with opposite (sunward) convection over the central polar cap are a permanent feature in addition to the main convection cells at lower latitudes. They are due to reconnection processes at the magnetopause boundary poleward of the cusp regions. Mapped EDI data have a particular good coverage within the central part of the polar cap, so that these patterns and their dependence on various solar wind conditions are well verified in a statistical sense. On average, 4-cell convection pattern are shown as regular structures during periods of nearly northward IMF with the tendency of a small shift toward negative clock angles. The positions of these high-latitude convection foci are within 79° to 85° magnetic latitude and 09:00–15:00 MLT. The MLT positions are approximately symmetric ±2 h about 11:30 MLT, i.e. slightly offset from midday toward prenoon hours, while the maximum (minimum) potential of the high-latitude cells is at higher magnetic latitudes near their maximum potential difference at ≈−10° to −15° clock angle for the North (South) Hemisphere. With increasing clock angle distances from ≈IMFBz+, a gradual transition occurs from the 4-cell pattern via a 3-cell to the common 2-cell convection pattern, in the course of which one of the medium-scale high-latitude dayside cells diminishes and disappears while the other intensifies and merges with the opposite main cell of the same polarity to form the large "round-shaped" convection cell when approaching a well-known IMFBy-dominated configuration. Opposite scenarios with interchanged roles of the respective cells occur for the opposite turning of the clock angle and at the Southern Hemisphere. The high-latitude dayside cells become more pronounced with increasing magnitude of the IMF vector.