Articles | Volume 31, issue 3
Regular paper
04 Mar 2013
Regular paper |  | 04 Mar 2013

The relationship between the magnetosphere and magnetospheric/auroral substorms

S.-I. Akasofu

Abstract. On the basis of auroral and polar magnetic substorm studies, the relationship between the solar wind-magnetosphere dynamo (the DD dynamo) current and the substorm dynamo (the UL dynamo) current is studied. The characteristics of both the DD and UL currents reveal why auroral substorms consist of the three distinct phases after the input power ε is increased above 1018 erg s−1. (a) The growth phase; the magnetosphere can accumulate magnetic energy for auroral substorms, when the ionosphere cannot dissipate the power before the expansion phase. (b) The expansion phase; the magnetosphere releases the accumulated magnetic energy during the growth phase in a pulse-like manner in a few hours, because it tries to stabilize itself when the accumulated energy reaches to about 1023 erg s−1. (c) The recovery phase; the magnetosphere becomes an ordinary dissipative system after the expansion phase, because the ionosphere becomes capable of dissipating the power with the rate of 1018 ~ 1019 erg s−1.

On the basis of the above conclusion, it is suggested that the magnetosphere accomplishes the pulse-like release process (resulting in spectacular auroral activities) by producing plasma instabilities in the current sheet, thus reducing the current. The resulting contraction of the magnetic field lines (expending the accumulated magnetic energy), together with break down of the "frozen-in" field condition at distances of less than 10 RE, establishes the substorm dynamo that generates an earthward electric field (Lui and Kamide, 2003; Akasofu, 2011). It is this electric field which manifests as the expansion phase. A recent satellite observation at a distance of as close as 8.1 RE by Lui (2011) seems to support strongly the occurrence of the chain of processes suggested in the above.

It is hoped that although the concept presented here is very crude, it will serve in providing one way of studying the three phases of auroral substorms. In turn, a better understanding of auroral substorms will also be useful in studying the magnetosphere, because various auroral activities can be the visible guide for this endeavor.