Generation of BBFs and DFs, Formation of Substorm Auroras and Triggers of Substorm Onset

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Yan Song and Robert L Lysak, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, School of Physics and Astronomy, Minneapolis, MN, United States
Substorm onset is a dynamical response of the MI coupling system to external solar wind driving conditions and to internal dynamical processes. During the growth phase, the solar wind energy and momentum are transferred into the magnetosphere via MHD mesoscale Alfvenic interactions throughout the magnetopause current sheet. A decrease in momentum transfer from the solar wind into the magnetosphere starts a preconditioning stage, and produces a strong earthward body force acting on the whole magnetotail within a short time period. The strong earthward force will cause localized transients in the tail, such as multiple BBFs, DFs, plasma bubbles, and excited MHD waves. On auroral flux tubes, FACs carried by Alfven waves are generated by Alfvenic interactions between tail earthward flows associated with BBFs/DFs/Bubbles and the ionospheric drag. Nonlinear Alfvenic interaction between the incident and reflected Alfven wave packets in the auroral acceleration region can produce localized parallel electric fields and substorm auroral arcs.

During the preconditioning stage prior to substorm onset, the generation of parallel electric fields and auroral arcs can redistribute perpendicular mechanical and magnetic stresses, “decoupling” the magnetosphere from the ionosphere drag. This will enhance the tail earthward flows and rapidly build up stronger parallel electric fields in the auroral acceleration region, leading to a sudden and violent tail energy release and substorm auroral poleward expansion. We suggest that in preconditioning stage, the decrease in the solar wind momentum transfer is a necessary condition of the substorm onset. Additionally, “decoupling” the magnetosphere from ionosphere drag can trigger substorm expansion onset.