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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 30, issue 10
Ann. Geophys., 30, 1539–1553, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 30, 1539–1553, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Regular paper 12 Oct 2012

Regular paper | 12 Oct 2012

The pulsed nature of the nightside contribution to polar cap convection: repetitive substorm activity under steady interplanetary driving

P. E. Sandholt1, Y. L. Andalsvik1, and C. J. Farrugia2 P. E. Sandholt et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 2Space Science Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA

Abstract. The aim of this study is to investigate the relative contributions of dayside and nightside processes to the spatial and temporal structure of polar cap plasma convection. The central parameter is the cross-polar cap potential (CPCP). Selecting a 10-h-long interval of stable interplanetary driving by an interplanetary CME (ICME), we are able to distinguish between the dayside and nightside sources of the convection. The event was initiated by an abrupt enhancement of the magnetopause (MP) reconnection rate triggered by a southward turning of the ICME magnetic field. This was followed by a long interval (10 h) of steady and strong driving. Under the latter condition a long series of electrojet intensifications was observed which recurred at 50 min intervals. The detailed temporal structure of polar cap convection in relation to polar cap contraction events is obtained by combining continuous ground observations of convection-related magnetic deflections (including polar cap magnetic indices in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, PCN and PCS) and the more direct, but lower-resolution ion drift data obtained from a satellite (DMSP F13) in polar orbit. The observed PCN enhancements combined with DMSP satellite observations (F13 and F15 data) of polar cap contractions during the evolution of selected substorm expansions allowed us to estimate the CPCP enhancements (25%) associated with individual events in the series. Ground-satellite conjunctions are further used to investigate the spatial structure of polar cap convection, i.e., the homogeneous plasma flow in the centre (Vi ≤ 1 km s−1) versus channels of enhanced antisunward flows (Vi ≥ 1 km s−1) along the periphery of the polar cap. We emphasise the temporal structure of these polar cap flow phenomena in relation to the prevailing solar wind forcing and the repetitive substorm activity.

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