Articles | Volume 28, issue 1
29 Jan 2010
 | 29 Jan 2010

Comparison of eight years magnetic field data from Cluster with Tsyganenko models in the inner magnetosphere

Q.-H. Zhang, M. W. Dunlop, R. Holme, and E. E. Woodfield

Abstract. Eight years of magnetic field data, taken while the four Cluster spacecraft pass through, or adjacent to, the equatorial ring current, have been surveyed to investigate the effects on the Earth's magnetic field of the externally driven current systems connecting the ionosphere, cusp and ring current regions. This study extends previous work to cover a greater range of orbit location and external conditions. We compare the modeled magnetic field from different global field models (Tsyganenko, 1989, 1996, and 2001, hereafter T89, T96 and T01) with data from the four Cluster spacecraft. Comparing with the different models allow us not only to characterize each model's performance, but also provides insight into the physical sources of observed signals. The data generally deviate much less from the expected model field during the years close to the solar minimum, implying that the models perform better during weaker geomagnetic activity. There are particular deviations from the models associated with the ring current (well-defined smooth trends) and region 2 field aligned currents (FACs) or low-altitude cusp FACs (sharp bipolar signatures). During the ring current crossings (through perigee, at 4–5 RE), the T96 model always overestimates the ring current, while the T01 and T89 models sometimes underestimate it. The sharp bipolar signatures are not always sampled, implying a localized extent, but only the T96 and T01 models include forms for the region 2 FACs and T01 appears to model these better. Overall, all deviations from T01 are much smaller than for the other models, indicating that this model achieves the best fit to the data. The 4 Cluster spacecraft observe nearly the same signatures at small separations (during the early years of the mission) but do sample different signatures at the large separations (during the later years). Using the four-spacecraft technique, we infer that the region 2 FACs, with a transverse thickness of ~0.17–0.54 RE, and cusp FACs, with a thickness of ~0.06–0.12 RE, are very stable in size and location.