Articles | Volume 29, issue 5
13 May 2011
 | 13 May 2011

Spatial dependence of magnetopause energy transfer: Cluster measurements verifying global simulations

M. Palmroth, T. V. Laitinen, C. R. Anekallu, T. I. Pulkkinen, M. Dunlop, E. A. Lucek, and I. Dandouras

Abstract. We investigate the spatial variation of magnetopause energy conversion and transfer using Cluster spacecraft observations of two magnetopause crossing events as well as using a global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation GUMICS-4. These two events, (16 January 2001, and 26 January 2001) are similar in all other aspects except for the sign of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) y-component that has earlier been found to control the spatial dependence of energy transfer. In simulations of the two events using observed solar wind parameters as input, we find that the GUMICS-4 energy transfer agrees with the Cluster observations spatially and is about 30 % lower in magnitude. According to the simulation, most of the the energy transfer takes place in the plane of the IMF (as previous modelling results have suggested), and the locations of the load and generator regions on the magnetopause are controlled by the IMF orientation. Assuming that the model results are as well in accordance with the in situ observations also on other parts of the magnetopause, we are able to pin down the total energy transfer during the two Cluster magnetopause crossings. Here, we estimate that the instantaneous total power transferring through the magnetopause during the two events is at least 1500–2000 GW, agreeing with ε scaled using the mean magnetopause area in the simulation. Hence the combination of the simulation results and the Cluster observations indicate that the ε parameter is probably underestimated by a factor of 2–3.