Articles | Volume 30, issue 5
Regular paper
09 May 2012
Regular paper |  | 09 May 2012

Plasma flows, Birkeland currents and auroral forms in relation to the Svalgaard-Mansurov effect

P. E. Sandholt and C. J. Farrugia

Abstract. The traditional explanation of the polar cap magnetic deflections, referred to as the Svalgaard-Mansurov effect, is in terms of currents associated with ionospheric flow resulting from the release of magnetic tension on newly open magnetic field lines. In this study, we aim at an updated description of the sources of the Svalgaard-Mansurov effect based on recent observations of configurations of plasma flow channels, Birkeland current systems and aurorae in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system. Central to our description is the distinction between two different flow channels (FC 1 and FC 2) corresponding to two consecutive stages in the evolution of open field lines in Dungey cell convection, with FC 1 on newly open, and FC 2 on old open, field lines. Flow channel FC 1 is the result of ionospheric Pedersen current closure of Birkeland currents flowing along newly open field lines. During intervals of nonzero interplanetary magnetic field By component FC 1 is observed on either side of noon and it is accompanied by poleward moving auroral forms (PMAFs/prenoon and PMAFs/postnoon). In such cases the next convection stage, in the form of flow channel FC 2 on the periphery of the polar cap, is particularly important for establishing an IMF By-related convection asymmetry along the dawn-dusk meridian, which is a central element causing the Svalgaard-Mansurov effect. FC 2 flows are excited by the ionospheric Pedersen current closure of the northernmost pair of Birkeland currents in the four-sheet current system, which is coupled to the tail magnetopause and flank low-latitude boundary layer. This study is based on a review of recent statistical and event studies of central parameters relating to the magnetosphere-ionosphere current systems mentioned above. Temporal-spatial structure in the current systems is obtained by ground-satellite conjunction studies. On this point we emphasize the important information derived from the continuous ground monitoring of the dynamical behaviour of aurora and plasma convection during intervals of well-organised solar wind plasma and magnetic field conditions in interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) during their Earth passage.