Assessing Locations of Energy Transfer/Deposit in the Ionosphere-Thermosphere System

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:17 AM
Jiannan Tu and Paul Song, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Space Science Laboratory and Physics Department, Lowell, MA, United States
It has long been believed that most of energy transferred from the magnetosphere and deposited in the ionosphere-thermosphere system occurs in the auroral zone, the region of strong field-aligned current density. Recent observations of the Poynting flux to the ionosphere and theoretical investigations of the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling show that the strongest energy transfer may be in the polar cap proper where the plasma flow speed is high and not where the flow reverses. This implies that the field-aligned current is not the primary agent of the energy transfer into the ionosphere-thermosphere system and that other physical progresses are at play. Recent simulation studies using an inductive-dynamic approach (including self-consistent solutions of Faraday’s law and retaining inertia terms in the ion momentum equations) on the magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere coupling indicate that the energy transfer is through Alfven waves propagating to the ionosphere/thermosphere and the energy deposition is via the frictional heating caused by relative motion between ions and neutrals. In this study we assess the locations of the energy transfer and deposition by employing a self-consistent inductive-dynamic ionosphere-thermosphere model. In a 2-D numerical simulation (dawn-dusk meridian plane), we solve the continuity, momentum, and energy equations for multiple species of ions and neutrals including photochemistry and Maxwell’s equations. By simulating responses of the ionosphere-thermosphere system to enhanced magnetosphere convection, we show that the strongest energy transfer occurs in the polar cap proper instead of the auroral zone.