Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

Subauroral electric fields observed by the Freja satellite: A statistical study


  • T. Karlsson,

  • G. T. Marklund,

  • L. G. Blomberg,

  • A. Mälkki


Over 12 months of Freja electric field data have been scanned for subauroral electric fields (SAEF) to enable a comprehensive study of the ionospheric signatures of such electric fields. SAEF are encountered from 1800 to 0200 MLT in agreement with an earlier study. However, a large majority of the SAEF are encountered at a time slightly premidnight (2200 – 2300 MLT), with rather few occurrences before 2000 MLT and after 2400 MLT. Furthermore, the strength of the subauroral electric field is generally much larger for events close to 2200 MLT than for other events. The data confirm that SAEF occur during the substorm recovery phase but also show that SAEF occur earlier during recovery when located close to 2200 MLT than at other local times. The dependence on season and geomagnetic activity is studied, and it is found that the SAEF are more commonly observed at times of high activity when the subauroral electric fields are also generally stronger, except close to winter solstice, when strong electric fields are observed during low activity. The potentials associated with the SAEF and the relation to interplanetary magnetic field By are also studied. The observations are discussed in context with substorm-related field-aligned currents and the midlatitude trough, and we present evidence that support and refine one of the proposed production mechanisms.