Global High-Latitude Conductivity Modeling: New Data and Improved Methods

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ryan Michael McGranaghan1, Delores J Knipp1, Tomoko Matsuo2 and Humberto C Godinez3, (1)University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM, United States
The ionospheric conductivity distribution is essential for understanding the coupling in the magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere (MIT) system. Hall conductivities, which regulate ionospheric current flow in the direction perpendicular to both the background magnetic field and the electric field, exert control over magnetospheric configuration, including transport within the plasmasphere and reconnection in the magnetotail [Lotko et al., 2014]. Pedersen conductivities control electric field variability and, in turn, determine the distribution and intensity of Joule heating, a prominent source of upper atmospheric temperature and neutral density enhancement.

Contemporary conductivity modeling techniques rely on limiting assumptions and are 2-dimensional by design. Typically these models assume Maxwellian incoming particle energy distributions and simplistic current closure paths within an ionospheric ‘shell’ located at 110 km. We have developed a method to: 1) eliminate these assumptions and 2) allow 3-dimensional conductivity analysis using particle energy spectra provided by Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites. A sequential non-linear procedure then regresses the conductivities derived from DMSP data on the same basis functions used in the Assimilative Mapping of Ionospheric Electrodynamics (AMIE) procedure to obtain a realistic form of the covariance model, with the goal to integrate 3-dimensional conductivity analysis into the AMIE procedure. This addresses one of the primary sources of uncertainty within AMIE, and will ultimately allow more accurate characterization of high-latitude ionospheric electrodynamics. We present 3-dimensional conductivity distributions derived from satellite observations and global maps of these conductivities for the year 2010.


Lotko, W., et al. (2014), Ionospheric control of magnetotail reconnection, Science, 345(6193), 184–187, doi:10.1126/science.1252907.