The Role of Polar Cap Flux Tube Deformation and Magnetosheath Plasma Beta in the Saturation of the Region 1 Field-Aligned Current System

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Frederick D Wilder, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, Stefan Eriksson, Univ Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States and Michael James Wiltberger, National Center for Atmospheric Research, High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, CO, United States
The phenomena of cross-polar cap potential (CPCP) and ionospheric field-aligned current (FAC) saturation remains largely unexplained. In this study, we expand upon the Alfvén Wing model of CPCP saturation by investigating its impact on the magnetosphere-ionosphere current system, particularly the Region 1 FAC input into the polar cap. Our hypothesis is that the ability of open flux tubes to deform in response to applied fluid stress from the magnetosheath is governed by the magnetosheath plasma beta, which in turn governs the Maxwell stress imposed on ionospheric plasma from the magnetosphere. This leads both the Region 1 FAC input as well as the ionospheric convection strength, as represented by the CPCP, to saturate in response to the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) driving. We perform 32 simulations using the Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry (LFM) Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) model with varying solar wind density and IMF strength, and demonstrate that the plasma beta does govern the deformation of polar cap and lobe field lines, as well as the non-linear response of the Region 1 FAC system to increasingly southward IMF. Further, we show that the current-voltage relationship in the ionosphere also shows a dependence on the plasma beta in the magnetosheath, with the ionosphere becoming more resistive at lower beta.