O+ and H+ ion heat fluxes at high altitudes and high latitudes
Abstract. Higher order moments, e.g., perpendicular and parallel heat fluxes, are related to non-Maxwellian plasma distributions. Such distributions are common when the plasma environment is not collision dominated. In the polar wind and auroral regions, the ion outflow is collisionless at altitudes above about 1.2 RE geocentric. In these regions wave–particle interaction is the primary acceleration mechanism of outflowing ionospheric origin ions. We present the altitude profiles of actual and "thermalized" heat fluxes for major ion species in the collisionless region by using the Barghouthi model. By comparing the actual and "thermalized" heat fluxes, we can see whether the heat flux corresponds to a small perturbation of an approximately bi-Maxwellian distribution (actual heat flux is small compared to "thermalized" heat flux), or whether it represents a significant deviation (actual heat flux equal or larger than "thermalized" heat flux). The model takes into account ion heating due to wave–particle interactions as well as the effects of gravity, ambipolar electric field, and divergence of geomagnetic field lines. In the discussion of the ion heat fluxes, we find that (1) the role of the ions located in the energetic tail of the ion velocity distribution function is very significant and has to be taken into consideration when modeling the ion heat flux at high altitudes and high latitudes; (2) at times the parallel and perpendicular heat fluxes have different signs at the same altitude. This indicates that the parallel and perpendicular parts of the ion energy are being transported in opposite directions. This behavior is the result of many competing processes; (3) we identify altitude regions where the actual heat flux is small as compared to the "thermalized" heat flux. In such regions we expect transport equation solutions based on perturbations of bi-Maxwellian distributions to be applicable. This is true for large altitude intervals for protons, but only the lowest altitudes for oxygen.