Geophysical Research Letters

On the association between northward turnings of the interplanetary magnetic field and substorm onsets

Authors


Abstract

[1] We re-examine whether substorms are triggered by solar wind fluctuations or an internal magnetospheric instability by comparing the statistical associations between substorm onsets and (1) an external trigger definition, (2) a simple internal trigger definition of only prior loading of solar wind energy that is a subset of the external trigger definition. Statistical associations are calculated both for observed substorm onsets and onsets generated by a Minimal Substorm Model in which substorms are purely internally triggered. Thence we argue that a minimum interval of prior loading is a necessary condition for substorm onset, a subsequent northward IMF turning is not necessary, and consequently that an internal trigger from a magnetospheric instability is a necessary and sufficient condition for substorm onset. We discuss how this result may explain a report that externally triggered substorms are systematically larger than non-externally triggered substorms.

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