Articles | Volume 33, issue 6
Regular paper
01 Jun 2015
Regular paper |  | 01 Jun 2015

Investigation of energy transport and thermospheric upwelling during quiet magnetospheric and ionospheric conditions from the studies of low- and middle-altitude cusp

T. Živković, S. Buchert, P. Ritter, L. Palin, and H. Opgenoorth

Abstract. We investigate energy fluxes and small, kilometre-scale Birkeland currents in the magnetospheric cusp at a 1–3 Earth radii altitude and in the ionosphere using satellites when they were, according to the Tsyganenko model, in magnetic conjunction within 50–60 km and up to 15 min apart. We use Cluster and CHAMP satellites, and study three conjunction events that occurred in 2008 and 2009, when the Cluster spacecraft were crossing the cusps at only a few Earth radii altitude. Our goal is to understand better the influence of processes in the magnetospheric cusp on the upper thermosphere and its upwelling which was usually observed by the CHAMP satellite passing the cusp. Three studied events occurred under relatively quiet and steady magnetospheric and ionospheric conditions, which explains why observed thermospheric density enhancements were rather low. Our findings point out that for each studied event soft electron precipitation influences thermospheric density enhancements in a way that stronger electron precipitation produces stronger thermospheric upwelling. Therefore, in the case of these weak events, soft electron precipitation seems to be more important cause of the observed, thermospheric density enhancements than is the Joule heating.

Short summary
In this paper we analyze 21 conjunctions between the Cluster and CHAMP satellites while they were passing magnetic cusp during relatively quiet solar activity. Only three of the conjunctions reveal field-aligned currents on both satellites as well as neutral density enhancement in the thermosphere. Poynting and electron energy fluxes (EEF) as well as Joule heating were computed and the conclusion is that for these weak events EEF has the strongest contribution to the observed density increase.