Ionospheric Convection Signatures of Tail Fast Flows During Substorms and Poleward Boundary Intensifications (Pbi)


Zesta, E., Shi, Y., Donovan, E., Spanswick, E., Lyons, L. R., Angelopoulos, V., … & Doe, R. (2011). Ionospheric convection signatures of tail fast flows during substorms and Poleward Boundary Intensifications (PBI). Geophysical research letters, 38(8).


Tail fast flows have been associated both with the onset of substorms and with auroral Poleward Boundary Intensifications (PBIs) that extend equatorward as streamers. We study here a series of bursts of fast tail flow that occurred on 5 March 2008 when four of the THEMIS probes were aligned in the tail from mid-tail to inner magnetosphere and were in good conjunction with the Sondrestrom Incoherent Scatter Radar. The series of burst are identified as two separate events. We find that the first event is associated with a small substorm onset, and the second with a PBI and then possibly another onset. The ionospheric flow signatures of the substorm and the PBI are distinctly different: the substorm onset is characterized by flow enhancement in the polar cap several minutes before onset and by sudden ionospheric flow reduction at onset, while the PBI is accompanied by a flow enhancement directed primarily equatorward and intruding from the polar cap into the plasma sheet.

Key Points:

  • Distinct tail and ionospheric flow signatures for substorm onsets and PBIs
  • Enhanced flow in polar cap min before onset
  • During PBI upward FAC at separatrix, equatorward flow from open to closed field

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