Articles | Volume 30, issue 2
Regular paper
13 Feb 2012
Regular paper |  | 13 Feb 2012

The physical basis of ionospheric electrodynamics

V. M. Vasyliūnas

Abstract. The conventional equations of ionospheric electrodynamics, highly succesful in modeling observed phenomena on sufficiently long time scales, can be derived rigorously from the complete plasma and Maxwell's equations, provided that appropriate limits and approximations are assumed. Under the assumption that a quasi-steady-state equilibrium (neglecting local dynamical terms and considering only slow time variations of external or aeronomic-process origin) exists, the conventional equations specify how the various quantities must be related numerically. Questions about how the quantities are related causally or how the stress equilibrium is established and on what time scales are not anwered by the conventional equations but require the complete plasma and Maxwell's equations, and these lead to a picture of the underlying physical processes that can be rather different from the commonly presented intuitive or ad hoc explanations. Particular instances include the nature of the ionospheric electric current, the relation between electric field and plasma bulk flow, and the interrelationships among various quantities of neutral-wind dynamo.