Filamentary field-aligned currents at the polar cap region during northward interplanetary magnetic field derived with the Swarm constellation
Abstract. ESA's Swarm constellation mission makes it possible for the first time to determine field-aligned currents (FACs) in the ionosphere uniquely. In particular at high latitudes, the dual-satellite approach can reliably detect some FAC structures which are missed by the traditional single-satellite technique. These FAC events occur preferentially poleward of the auroral oval and during times of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) orientation. Most events appear on the nightside. They are not related to the typical FAC structures poleward of the cusp, commonly termed NBZ. Simultaneously observed precipitating particle spectrograms and auroral images from Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites are consistent with the detected FACs and indicate that they occur on closed field lines mostly adjacent to the auroral oval. We suggest that the FACs are associated with Sun-aligned filamentary auroral arcs. Here we introduce in an initial study features of the high-latitude FAC structures which have been observed during the early phase of the Swarm mission. A more systematic survey over longer times is required to fully characterize the so far undetected field aligned currents.