A quantitative study of magnetospheric magnetic field line deformation by a two-loop substorm current wedge
Abstract. Substorm current wedge (SCW) formation is associated with global magnetic field reconfiguration during substorm expansion. We combine a two-loop model SCW (SCW2L) with a background magnetic field model to investigate distortion of the ionospheric footpoint pattern in response to changes of different SCW2L parameters. The SCW-related plasma sheet footprint shift results in formation of a pattern resembling an auroral bulge, the poleward expansion of which is controlled primarily by the total current in the region 1 sense current loop (I1). The magnitude of the footprint latitudinal shift may reach ∼ 10° corrected geomagnetic latitude (CGLat) during strong substorms (I1= 2 MA). A strong helical magnetic field around the field-aligned current generates a surge-like region with embedded spiral structures, associated with a westward traveling surge (WTS) at the western end of the SCW. The helical field may also contribute to rotation of the ionospheric projection of narrow plasma streams (auroral streamers). Other parameters, including the total current in the second (region 2 sense) loop, were found to be of secondary importance. Analyzing two consecutive dipolarizations on 17 March 2010, we used magnetic variation data obtained from a dense midlatitude ground network and several magnetospheric spacecraft, as well as the adaptive AM03 model, to specify SCW2L parameters, which allowed us to predict the magnitude of poleward auroral expansion. Auroral observations made during the two substorm activations demonstrate that the SCW2L combined with the AM03 model nicely describes the azimuthal progression and the observed magnitude of the auroral expansion. This finding indicates that the SCW-related distortions are responsible for much of the observed global development of bright auroras.