Nature’s Grand Experiment: Linkage between magnetospheric convection and the radiation belts
The solar minimum of 2007–2010 was unusually deep and long lived. In the later stages of this period the electron fluxes in the radiation belts dropped to extremely low levels. The flux of relativistic electrons (>1 MeV) was significantly diminished and at times was below instrument thresholds both for spacecraft located in geostationary orbits and also those in low-Earth orbit. This period has been described as a natural “Grand Experiment” allowing us to test our understanding of basic radiation belt physics and in particular the acceleration mechanisms which lead to enhancements in outer belt relativistic electron fluxes. Here we test the hypothesis that processes which initiate repetitive substorm onsets drive magnetospheric convection, which in turn triggers enhancement in whistler mode chorus that accelerates radiation belt electrons to relativistic energies. Conversely, individual substorms would not be associated with radiation belt acceleration. Contrasting observations from multiple satellites of energetic and relativistic electrons with substorm event lists, as well as chorus measurements, show that the data are consistent with the hypothesis. We show that repetitive substorms are associated with enhancements in the flux of energetic and relativistic electrons and enhanced whistler mode wave intensities. The enhancement in chorus wave power starts slightly before the repetitive substorm epoch onset. During the 2009/2010 period the only relativistic electron flux enhancements that occurred were preceded by repeated substorm onsets, consistent with enhanced magnetospheric convection as a trigger.
Authors: Rodger, Craig J., Cresswell-Moorcock, Kathy, Clilverd, Mark A.