The story of plumes: the development of a new conceptual framework for understanding magnetosphere and ionosphere coupling
- Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
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.