Field-aligned Currents’ Scale Analysis Performed by the Swarm Constellation

Friday, 19 December 2014
Hermann Luhr1, Jaeheung Park1, Jesper W Gjerloev2, Jan Rauberg1, Ingo Michaelis1, Guan Le3, Jose M.G. Merayo4 and Peter Brauer4, (1)Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany, (2)Johns Hopkins University - Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, United States, (3)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)DTU Space, Lyngby, Denmark
We present a statistical study of the temporal and spatial scale characteristics of different field-aligned current (FAC) types. Very suitable for this purpose is the closely spaced Swarm satellite formation, which existed shortly after launch during the commissioning phase. As dataset we use the standard Level 2 product, Single Satellite FAC, which comes at a data rate of 1 Hz, corresponding to an along-track distance of 7.5 km.

FACs are known to cover a wide range of scales from 1km to several hundred kilometres, the smaller the scale the larger the amplitude. We like to divide the FACs into two classes. Those of intermediate scale, some tens of kilometres, which are carried predominantly by kinetic Alfvén waves, while the large-scale FACs are assumed to be stationary current structures on the timescales of a satellite crossing. For distinguishing between the two we first look how the temporal variability changes with scale. For that we consider subsequent measurements at the same point, the orbital cross-over near the geographic poles, and interpret the temporal current changes. Here we focus on observations in the southern hemisphere at locations where the geographic pole lies within the auroral region.

In a next step the latitudinal and longitudinal scales of the larger-scale FAC structures are investigated. FACs related to Alfvén waves cannot be studied in this way because we have no simultaneous measurements at the same latitude and longitude. The results from this analysis are different for dayside and nightside. Implications for the FAC characteristics resulting from these observations are interpreted in the end.