Articles | Volume 26, issue 3
26 Mar 2008
 | 26 Mar 2008

Storm time dynamics of auroral electrojets: CHAMP observation and the Space Weather Modeling Framework comparison

H. Wang, H. Lühr, A. Ridley, P. Ritter, and Y. Yu

Abstract. We investigate variations of the location and intensity of auroral currents during two magnetic storm periods based on magnetic field measurements from CHAMP separately for both hemispheres, as well as for the dayside and nightside. The corresponding auroral electrojet current densities are on average enhanced by about a factor of 7 compared to the quiet time current strengths. The nightside westward current densities are on average 1.8 (2.2) times larger than the dayside eastward current densities in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere. Both eastward and westward currents are present during the storm periods with the most intense electrojets appearing during the main phase of the storm, before the ring current maximizes in strength. The eastward and westward electrojet centers can expand to 55° MLat during intense storms, as is observed on 31 March 2001 with Dst=−387 nT. The equatorward shift of auroral currents on the dayside is closely controlled by the southward IMF, while the latitudinal variations on the nightside are better described by the variations of the Dst index. However, the equatorward and poleward motion of the nightside auroral currents occur earlier than the Dst variations. The Space Weather Modeling Framework (SWMF) can capture the general dynamics of the storm time current variations. Both the model and the actual data show that the currents tend to saturate when the merging electric field is larger than 10 mV/m. However, the exact prediction of the temporal development of the currents is still not satisfactory.