Evidence That Solar Wind Fluctuations Substantially Affect Global Convection and Substorm Occurrence


Lyons, L. R., Kim, H. J., Xing, X., Zou, S., Lee, D. Y., Heinselman, C., … & Fornacon, K. H. (2009). Evidence that solar wind fluctuations substantially affect global convection and substorm occurrence. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 114(A11).


We have used examples of Poker Flat and Sondrestrom incoherent-scatter radar observations of flows within the ionospheric mapping of the nightside plasma sheet and of Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft observations within the nightside plasma sheet to investigate whether the features found in the companion paper by Kim et al. (2009) within the dayside polar cap are also seen within the nightside plasma sheet. We find evidence that this is indeed the case: intensified interplanetary ULF fluctuations substantially enhance nightside convection flows and the fluctuations are reflected in the fluctuation power of the nightside flows. Additionally, our observations show evidence for an enhancement of earthward convection within the inner plasma sheet and an increase in plasma pressure within the plasma sheet in association with enhanced interplanetary ULF fluctuations. We have also found evidence that the enhancement in convection and plasma sheet pressure associated with strong interplanetary fluctuations may lead to a dramatic increase in substorm occurrence under northward interplanetary magnetic field conditions. More detailed testing of the above results is needed. However, if corroborated, it would indicate that interplanetary ULF fluctuations have a substantial effect on global convection and are an important contributor to the large-scale transfer of solar wind energy to the magnetosphere-ionosphere system, to plasma sheet structure and dynamics, and to the occurrence of disturbances such as substorms.

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