Geophysical Research Letters

Plasma pressure generated auroral current system: A case study



[1] An anti-sunward directed azimuthal pressure gradient drives meridional currents perpendicular to the magnetic field in the dusk and dawn closed field line regions. These currents are closed through the auroral ionosphere consisting of a pair of upward and downward sheet field aligned currents cross connected in the ionosphere. Using a conjunction of FAST and Polar the intensity of the up-down sheet FAC pair was measured in the dusk sector in typical auroral conditions. The T96 field model was used to define the geometry and it predicted that field lines at the satellites were stretched to 15 RE. The steady state pressure gradient current was calculated through a surface in the magnetosphere separating the upward and downward going FAC. With the field stretching predicted by the model a typical quiet time azimuthal pressure gradient of 0.01 nPa/Re generated sufficient current to be the source of the observed auroral current loops.