Models of Auroral-Zone Conductances

  1. Thomas A. Potemra
  1. Patricia H. Reiff

Published Online: 21 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM028p0180

Magnetospheric Currents

Magnetospheric Currents

How to Cite

Reiff, P. H. (1984) Models of Auroral-Zone Conductances, in Magnetospheric Currents (ed T. A. Potemra), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM028p0180

Author Information

  1. Department of Space Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1984

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900551

Online ISBN: 9781118664131



  • Magnetospheric currents—Congresses;
  • Plasma instabilities—Congresses


The magnetosphere-ionosphere system is strongly coupled, with magnetospheric Birkeland currents feeding ionospheric Pedersen and Hall currents. Central to any computer simulation of this system is a detailed, valid conductivity model. An accurate conductivity model is also vital in order to infer Birkeland currents and electric field patterns from inversions of magnetometer chain data.

Several recent attempts at constructing conductivity models are presented and their strengths and weaknesses discussed. Incoherent scatter radar measurements can determine height profiles of electron content, from which Pedersen and Hall conductances may be calculated. These yield excellent spatial and good temporal resolution; however, they are limited in field of view. A global pattern requires either 24 hours of data or a chain of stations. Synoptic empirical models (quantized by indices such as Kp or AE) typically are limited by their large bin size (1° invariant latitude×1 hour MLT), and cannot reproduce arcs. Estimating conductivity globally from Dynamics Explorer auroral images is promising, and can yield reasonable time scales (∼10 minutes); however, this procedure is still only now being tested.