Field-Aligned Currents in the Earth's Magnetosphere

  1. C. T. Russell,
  2. E. R. Priest and
  3. L. C. Lee
  1. Gerhard Haerendel

Published Online: 21 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM058p0539

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

How to Cite

Haerendel, G. (1990) Field-Aligned Currents in the Earth's Magnetosphere, in Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes (eds C. T. Russell, E. R. Priest and L. C. Lee), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM058p0539

Author Information

  1. Max-Planck-Institut für Physik und Astrophysik Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, 8046 Garching, FRG

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1990

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900261

Online ISBN: 9781118663868



  • Solar photosphere;
  • Magnetic flux;
  • Astrophysics


Field-aligned currents are generated when momentum is transferred from one plasma regime to another via magnetic shear stresses. Therefore, they play a key role in establishing the force balance between the hot magnetospheric plasma and the cold, dense plasma of the ionosphere. This interaction has many aspects. Six of them are addressed in this paper, the source, propagation, reflection and closure of field-aligned currents and the possibility of finite field-aligned voltages for narrow transverse scales (kinetic corrections) and/or high current densities, which in some situations may lead to current instability and anomalous resistivity. The paper emphasizes the dynamical aspects of field-aligned currents, i.e. their relation to the overall momentum balance as well as propagation and collisionless dissipation effects. In the first part, the development of concepts of magnetospheric current systems based on the existence of field-aligned currents is briefly described.