Theory of the low-latitude boundary layer


  • B.U.Ö. Sonnerup


A one-dimensional steady state fluid mechanical model is developed of the low-latitude plasma boundary layer inside the dawn and dusk magnetopause. Momentum transfer in the layer is produced by viscosity and/or mass diffusion. Coupling to the ionosphere is achieved via field-aligned currents, the magnitude of which is limited by parallel potential drops. These currents flow into and out of the ionosphere in the manner described by Iijima and Potemra. The higher-latitude (region 1) currents are associated with the boundary layer proper, while the lower-latitude (region 2) ones are associated with a region of sunward return flow adjacent to the boundary layer. The parallel potential drops have a magnitude of typically 2–3 kV and a north-south extent of 100–200 km. The calculated potential profile corresponds reasonably well to observed inverted V precipitation events.