Plasmasphere dynamics in the duskside bulge region: a new look at an old topic

Data acquired during several multiday periods in 1982 at ground stations Siple, Halley, and Kerguelen and on satellites DE 1, ISEE 1, and GEOS 2 have been used to investigate thermal plasma structure and dynamics in the duskside plasmasphere bulge region of the Earth. The distribution of thermal plasma in the dusk bulge sector is difficult to describe realistically, in part because of the time integral manner in which the thermal plasma distribution depends upon the effects of bulk cross-B flow and interchange plasma flows along B. While relatively simple MHD models can be useful for qualitatively predicting certain effects of enhanced convection on a quiet plasmasphere, such as an initial sunward entrainment of the outer regions, they are of limited value in predicting the duskside thermal plasma structures that are observed. Furthermore, use of such models can be misleading if one fails to realize that they do not address the question of the formation of the steep plasmapause profile or provide for a possible role of instabilities or other irreversible processes in plasmapause formation. Our specific findings, which are based both upon the present case studies and upon earlier work, include the following: (1) during active periods the plasmasphere appears to become divided into two entities, a main plasmasphere and a duskside bulge region. The latter consists of outlying or outward extending plasmas that are the products of erosion of the main plasmasphere; (2) in the aftermath of an increase in convection activity, the main plasmasphere tends (from a statistical point of view) to become roughly circular in equatorial cross section, with only a slight bulge at dusk; (3) the abrupt westward edge of the duskside bulge observed from whistlers represents a state in the evolution of sunward extending streamers; (4) in the aftermath of a weak magnetic storm, 10 to 30% of the plasma ''removed'' from the outer plasmasphere appears to remain in the afternoon-dusk sector beyond the main plasmasphere. This suggests that plasma flow from the afternoon-dusk magnetosphere into the boundary layers is to some extent impeded, possibly through a mechanism that partially decouples the high altitude and ionospheric-level flow regimes; (5) outlying dense plasma structures may circulate in the outer duskside magnetosphere for many days following an increase in convection, unless there is extremely deep quieting; (6) a day-night plasmatrough boundary may be identified in equatorial satellite data; (7) factor-of-2-to-10 density irregularities appear near the plasmapause in the postdusk sector in the aftermath of weak magnetic storms; (8) during the refilling of the plasmatrough from the ionosphere at L = 4.6, predominantly bidirectional field aligned and equatorially trapped light ion pitch angle distributions give way to a predominantly isotropic distribution (as seen by DE 1) when the plasma density reaches a level a factor of about 3 below the saturated plasmasphere level; (9) some outlying dense plasma structures are effectively detached from the main plasmasphere, while others appear to be connected to that body.


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Authors: Carpenter, D.L., Giles, B.L., Chappell, C.R., Decreau, P.M.E., Anderson, R.R., Persoon, A.M., Smith, A.J., Corcuff, Y., Canu, P.

1 November, 1993
Journal of Geophysical Research / 98
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