Events of enhanced convection and related dayside auroral activity


  • J. Moen,

  • P. E. Sandholt,

  • M. Lockwood,

  • W. F. Denig,

  • U. P. Løvhaug,

  • B. Lybekk,

  • A. Egeland,

  • D. Opsvik,

  • E. Friis-Christensen


In this paper we study the high-latitude plasma flow variations associated with a periodic (∼8 min) sequence of auroral forms moving along the polar cap boundary, which appear to be the most regularly occuring dayside auroral phenomenon under conditions of southward directed interplanetary magnetic field. Satellite data on auroral particle precipitation and ionospheric plasma drifts from DMSP F10 and F11 are combined with ground-based optical and ion flow measurements for January 7, 1992. Ionospheric flow measurements of 10-s resolution over the range of invariant latitudes from 71° to 76° were obtained by operating both the European incoherent scatter (EISCAT) UHF and VHF radars simultaneously. The optical site (Ny Ålesund, Svalbard) and the EISCAT radar field of view were located in the postnoon sector during the actual observations. The West Greenland magnetometers provided information about temporal variations of high-latitude convection in the prenoon sector. Satellite observations of polar cap convection in the northern and southern hemispheres show a standard two-cell pattern consistent with a prevailing negative By component of the interplanetary magnetic field. The 630.0 nm auroral forms located poleward of the persistent cleft aurora and the flow reversal boundary in the ∼1440–1540 MLT sector were observed to coincide with magnetosheath-like particle precipitation and a secondary population of higher energy ions, and they propagated eastward/tailward at speeds comparable with the convection velocity. It is shown that these optical events were accompanied by bursts of sunward (return) flow at lower latitudes in both the morning and the afternoon sectors, consistent with a modulation of Dungey cell convection. The background level of convection was low in this case (Kp =2+). The variability of the high-latitude convection may be explained as resulting from time-varying reconnection at the magnetopause. In that case this study indicates that time variations of the reconnection rate effectively modulates ionospheric convection.