The Role of Ionospheric Conductivity in the Response of the Magnetosphere and Ionosphere to Changes in the Earth’s Magnetic Field

Friday, 19 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Ingrid Cnossen, NERC British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, CB3, United Kingdom, Michael James Wiltberger, National Center for Atmospheric Research, High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, CO, United States, Arthur D Richmond, NCAR-High Alt Observatory, Boulder, CO, United States and Jeremy Ouellette, Thayer School of Engineering, Hanover, NH, United States; Vermont Technical College, Department of Computer & Information Systems, Randolph Center, VT, United States
The strength and orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field play an important role in the magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere system. This is demonstrated in a set of idealized experiments with the Coupled Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere model using a dipolar magnetic field. A decrease of the dipole moment (M) causes an increase in ionospheric conductance. This increase in conductance results in enhanced field-aligned currents (FACs), which change the shape of the magnetosphere, and causes a deviation from theoretical scaling relations of the stand-off distance, the size of the polar cap, and the cross-polar cap potential with M. The orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field determines how the angle μ between the geomagnetic dipole axis and the geocentric solar magnetospheric (GSM) z-axis varies with season and universal time (UT). The angle μ can affect solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling in two distinct ways: via variations in ionospheric conductivity over the polar caps or via a change in the coupling efficiency between the solar wind and magnetosphere as a result of changes in geometry. Simulations in which the ionospheric conductivity was either kept fixed or allowed to vary realistically demonstrated that variations in ionospheric conductance are responsible for ~10-30% of the variations in the cross-polar cap potential associated with variations in μ for southward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The remainder was mostly due to variations in the magnetic reconnection rate, which were associated with variations in the length of the section of the separator line along which relatively strong reconnection occurs.