Observations of an enhanced convection channel in the cusp ionosphere

Transient or patchy magnetic field line merging on the dayside magnetopause, giving rise to flux transfer events (FTEs), is thought to play a significant role in energizing high-latitude ionospheric convection during periods of southward interplanetary magnetic field. Several transient velocity patterns in the cusp ionosphere have been presented as candidate FTE signatures. Instrument limitations, combined with uncertainties about the magnetopause processes causing individual velocity transients, mean that definitive observations of the ionospheric signature of FTEs have yet to be presented. This paper describes combined observations by the PACE HF backscatter radar and the DMSP F9 polar-orbiting satellite of a transient velocity signature in the southern hemisphere ionospheric cusp. The prevailing solar wind conditions suggest that it is the result of enhanced magnetic merging at the magnetopause. The satellite particle precipitation data associated with the transient are typically cusplike in nature. The presence of spatially discrete patches of accelerated ions at the equatorward edge of the cusp is consistent with the ion acceleration that could occur with merging. The combined radar line-of-sight velocity data and the satellite transverse plasma drift data are consistent with a channel of enhanced convection superposed on the ambient cusp plasma flow. This channel is at least 900 km in longitudinal extent but only 100 km wide. It is zonally aligned for most of its extent, except at the western limit where it rotates sharply poleward. Weak return flow is observed outside the channel. These observations are compared with and contrasted to similar events seen by the EISCAT radar and by optical instruments.


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Authors: Pinnock, Michael, Rodger, Alan S., Dudeney, J. R., Baker, K. B., Newell, P. T., Greenwald, R. A., Greenspan, M. E.

On this site: Michael Pinnock
1 March, 1993
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics / 98
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