The amplitude distribution of field-aligned currents at northern high latitudes observed by Triad

Authors

  • Takesi Iijima,

  • T. A. Potemra


Abstract

The spatial distribution and magnitudes of field-aligned currents at 800-km altitude over northern high latitudes were determined from Triad magnetometer data recorded at College, Alaska, during the period from July 1973 to October 1974. The characteristics that were determined include the following: (1) Large-scale field-aligned currents are concentrated in two principal areas encircling the geomagnetic pole: region 1, located near the poleward part of the field-aligned current region; and region 2, located near the equatorward part. (2) In region 1 during moderately disturbed conditions (2− ≤ Kp ≤ 4+) the largest current densities occur on the forenoon sector, with currents flowing into the ionosphere (with a peak value of ∼2 µA/m² between 0700 and 0800 MLT), and in the afternoon sector, with currents flowing away from the ionosphere (with a peak value of ∼1.8 µA/m² between 1500 and 1600 MLT). These areas of maximum current density in region 1 are approximately coincident with the location of the foci of the Sqp current system. (3) In region 2 for 2− ≤ Kp ≤ 4+ the largest current densities occur on the night side where auroral electrojets are usually most active, namely, in the evening to premidnight sector, with currents flowing into the ionosphere (with a peak value of ∼ 1 µA/m² between 2100 and 2300 MLT), and in the midnight to morning sector, with currents flowing away from the ionosphere (with a peak value of ∼ 1.3 µA/m² between 0200 and 0300 MLT). (4) The currents in region 1 are statistically larger than the currents in region 2 at all local times except for the sector near midnight (∼2100–0300 MLT), where the region 2 currents are comparable to or slightly larger than the region 1 currents. (5) The region 2 currents in the midnight to morning sector are correlated with the intensity of the westward electrojet, and the region 2 currents in the evening to premidnight sector are correlated with the intensity of the eastward electrojet. (6) The region 1 currents appear to persist, especially on the day side, even during very low geomagnetic activity with a value of current density ≳0.6 µA/m² for Kp = 0. We suggest that the magnetosphere-ionosphere current system which contains field-aligned currents consists of two distinct parts: a permanent part with field-aligned currents in region 1 and the other part having field-aligned currents in region 2, which is an important element of the auroral electrojets.

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