The spatial distribution of region 2 field-aligned currents relative to subauroral polarization stream
Abstract. To test the current-generation model of subauroral polarization stream (SAPS), we have investigated the relative positions of field-aligned currents (FACs) with respect to SAPS in a statistical way by using CHAMP (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload) and DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellite observations as well as model simulations. Comparative studies have been performed for consecutive CHAMP observations in different magnetic local time (MLT) sectors with respect to SAPS. The latitude of the peak westward zonal wind deduced from CHAMP measurements has been used to represent the location of the SAPS peak. Both the density and the sheet current strength of R2 (region 2) FACs are enhanced when SAPS occur. Subsequently R2 FACs decay in intensity and correspondingly the centers retreat poleward. The latitudes of the center of the R2 FAC, small- and medium-scale FACs, and SAPS shift equatorward with increasing MLT. The SAPS peaks are located between R2 and R1 (region 1) FAC peaks in all MLT bins under study. The SAPS peaks are closer to R2 centers in the later MLT sectors. The peaks of small- and medium-scale FACs are located poleward of SAPS, mainly in the upward R1 FACs region. The upward R1 FACs are partly closed by the downward R1 FACs in the dawn–morning sector. Based on model simulation, when R2 shifts equatorward to the subauroral region, the plasma flow also shifts equatorward with its peak located poleward of that of R2 FACs. Both the model and observations provide evidence that SAPS behave as caused by a magnetospheric current source.