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Journal of Geophysical Research

Thermospheric response to a magnetic substorm


  • A. D. Richmond,

  • S. Matsushita


A computer model is used to simulate the winds and temperature variations in the thermosphere which result from auroral region electric currents during a large isolated magnetic substorm. A disturbance propagates with a speed of 750 m/s poleward and equatorward, with an amplitude of about 200 m/s in the north-south velocity and about 100 K in the temperature at 400-km altitude. The amplitude decays relatively little before the disturbance reaches the equator. The time history of the disturbance is roughly that of a single sinusoid whose period increases with horizontal distance from the source and with decreasing altitude. East-west winds of over 400 m/s at 400-km altitude are created in the auroral region itself by the ion drag mechanism. The spatial distribution of these ion drag winds is significantly affected by momentum convection, so that a simple interpretation in terms of local ion drag forces is generally not sufficient. A residual electric field of about 5 mV/m remains after the substorm source is turned off, due to the dynamo effect of the ion drag winds. Vertical velocities up to about 40 m/s are produced inside the auroral region, primarily by the fact that the heated air is more buoyant than the air outside. Comparison of our simulation with numerous observations shows generally good agreement.

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