Dependence of convective flows and particle precipitation in the high-latitude dayside ionosphere on the X and Y components of the interplanetary magnetic field


  • S. W. H. Cowley,

  • J. P. Morelli,

  • M. Lockwood


The asymmetries in the convective flows, current systems, and particle precipitation in the high-latitude dayside ionosphere which are related to the equatorial plane components of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) are discussed in relation to the results of several recent observational studies. It is argued that all of the effects reported to date which are ascribed to the y component of the IMF can be understood, at least qualitatively, in terms of a simple theoretical picture in which the effects result from the stresses exerted on the magnetosphere consequent on the interconnection of terrestrial and interplanetary fields. In particular, relaxation under the action of these stresses allows, in effect, a partial penetration of the IMF into the magnetospheric cavity, such that the sense of the expected asymmetry effects on closed field lines can be understood, to zeroth order, in terms of the “dipole plus uniform field” model. In particular, in response to IMF By, the dayside cusp should be displaced in longitude about noon in the same sense as By in the northern hemisphere, and in the opposite sense to By in the southern hemisphere, while simultaneously the auroral oval as a whole should be shifted in the dawn-dusk direction in the opposite sense with respect to By. These expected displacements are found to be consistent with recently published observations. Similar considerations lead to the suggestion that the auroral oval may also undergo displacements in the noon-midnight direction which are associated with the x component of the IMF. We show that a previously published study of the position of the auroral oval contains strong initial evidence for the existence of this effect. However, recent results on variations in the latitude of the cusp are more ambiguous. This topic therefore requires further study before definitive conclusions can be drawn.