Articles | Volume 34, issue 12
Regular paper
21 Dec 2016
Regular paper |  | 21 Dec 2016

The story of plumes: the development of a new conceptual framework for understanding magnetosphere and ionosphere coupling

Mark B. Moldwin, Shasha Zou, and Tom Heine

Abstract. The name “plume” has been given to a variety of plasma structures in the Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere. Some plumes (such as the plasmasphere plume) represent elevated plasma density, while other plumes (such as the equatorial F region plume) represent low-density regions. Despite these differences these structures are either directly related or connected in the causal chain of plasma redistribution throughout the system. This short review defines how plumes appear in different measurements in different regions and describes how plumes can be used to understand magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling. The story of the plume family helps describe the emerging conceptual framework of the flow of high-density–low-latitude ionospheric plasma into the magnetosphere and clearly shows that strong two-way coupling between ionospheric and magnetospheric dynamics occurs not only in the high-latitude auroral zone and polar cap but also through the plasmasphere. The paper briefly reviews, highlights and synthesizes previous studies that have contributed to this new understanding.

Short summary
A significant number of studies published over the last 15 years demonstrate that there is strong two-way coupling between the magnetosphere and ionosphere during geomagnetic activity; not only does the ionosphere respond to magnetospheric forcing during storms, but through its impact on wave generation, wave-particle interactions, ion outflow and mass loading at the dayside magnetopause and in the magnetotail, dense plasma plumes modulate the subsequent magnetospheric dynamics.