CHAMP observation of intense kilometer-scale field-aligned currents, evidence for an ionospheric Alfvén resonator

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<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Bursts of very intense kilometer-scale field-aligned currents (KSFACs) are observed quite frequently by the CHAMP satellite when passing through the auroral region. In extreme cases estimated current densities exceed 3 mA/m². Typical scale sizes of these KSFACs are 1 km. <br><br> The low-Earth, polar orbiting satellite CHAMP allows one to assess KSFACs down to scales of a couple of 100 m based on its high-precision magnetic field vector data sampled at 50 Hz. Using data from 5 years (2001&amp;ndash;2005) details of these currents can be investigated. In our statistical study we find that most of the KSFAC bursts and the strongest events are encountered in the cusp/cleft region. Significantly fewer events are found on the nightside. The affected region is typically 15&amp;deg;&amp;ndash;20&amp;deg; wide in latitude. There seems to be some dependence of the current intensity on the level of magnetic activity, <I>K<sub>p</sub></I>. On the other hand, no dependence has been found on sunspot number, the solar flux level, F10.7 or the solar zenith angle. The latitude, at which KSFAC bursts are encountered, expands equatorward with increasing <I>K<sub>p</sub></I>. This trend follows well the auroral oval expansion during enhanced magnetic activity. These KSFACs are generally accompanying large-scale FAC sheets, and they are predominantly associated with Region 1 currents. We propose an explanation of the KSFACs in terms of Alfvén waves trapped in a ionospheric resonator, which is initiated when the convection electric field or current strength surpasses a critical value. Many properties of such a resonator are in agreement with our KSFAC results.</p>




Rother, M., Schlegel, K., & Lühr, H. (2007). CHAMP observation of intense kilometer-scale field-aligned currents, evidence for an ionospheric Alfvén resonator. Annales Geophysicae, 25(7), 1603–1615.

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