Diffuse auroral electron scattering by electron cyclotron harmonic and whistler mode waves during an isolated substorm

There are two main theories for the origin of diffuse auroral electron precipitation: precipitation by electrostatic ECH waves and precipitation by whistler mode waves. Here we analyze a case event where whistler mode hiss, chorus, and ECH waves are intensified during a weak substorm injection event to identify the source of particle precipitation. Examination of the particle data shows that there are three sources of free energy: a temperature anisotropy, a loss cone, and a pancake distribution. Instability analysis shows that the temperature anisotropy excites whistler mode hiss whereas both the temperature anisotropy and the pancake distribution contribute to the excitation of chorus. ECH waves are driven unstable by the loss cone. Wave propagation studies show that the path integrated gain of hiss and chorus is almost unaffected by changes in the depth of the loss cone, whereas ECH waves are very sensitive. Analysis of the changes in the resonant energy during propagation shows that the hiss resonates with electrons above a few keV while chorus resonates below a few hundred eV. As a result, neither hiss nor chorus are likely to cause significant electron precipitation from a few hundred eV to a few keV for this event. On the other hand, ECH waves resonate with electrons in the energy range between that for chorus and hiss. ECH waves can scatter electrons with pitch angles of up to 80 degrees into the loss cone. We conclude that ECH waves are responsible for the formation of the pancake distribution and are probably the main component of diffuse auroral precipitation during this event. We suggest that substorm-injected electrons are responsible for the intensification of hiss and ECH waves and that rapid scattering of electrons by ECH waves forms the pancake distribution which then excites chorus. We also suggest that rapid pitch angle scattering by ECH waves could be responsible for double frequency banded chorus emissions.


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Authors: Horne, R.B. ORCIDORCID record for R.B. Horne, Thorne, R.M., Meredith, N.P., Anderson, R.R.

On this site: Richard Horne
1 January, 2003
Journal of Geophysical Research / 108
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