Storm-time Large-Scale Birkeland Currents: Salient Dynamics in Grand Challenge Events

Tuesday, 15 December 2015: 13:55
2016 (Moscone West)
Haje Korth1, Brian J Anderson1, Colin L Waters2 and Robin J Barnes1, (1)The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, United States, (2)University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
The Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) provides continuous global observations of Birkeland currents on a 10 minute cadence. During geomagnetic storms, currents intensify to over 15 MA, are dynamic both in intensity and distribution, and exhibit features not discernible in statistical analyses. For all of the subject grand challenge storms, AMPERE data reveal a number of novel phenomena illustrating the profound dynamics of the storm-time system. Storm-time onsets associated with shock arrivals are often very prompt and lead to dramatic surges in total current from 1 MA to over 5 MA in less than 20 minutes. The current surges occur predominantly on the dayside at high latitudes prior to any ring current or auroral expansions, indicating that neutral density upwelling is often driven independently of ring current or auroral zone intensifications. Rapid reconfigurations of the currents with IMF BY reversals within the sheath structures of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are also common. This implies that convection of ionospheric density patches over the polar cap may be quite complex, particularly during the early phase of geomagnetic storms related to the CME sheath passage. The 3 September 2012 storm exhibited intense driving with classic quasi-stable Region 1 and 2 currents spanning 55 to 70 degrees magnetic latitude for over 10 hours at the beginning of the day, corresponding to stable southward IMF prior to shock arrival at noon on that day. The shock arrival and IMF southward intensification led to further expansion of the currents below 50 degrees magnetic latitude and to episodic surges in currents on the nightside, which is unique to storms. The resulting current structure showed multiple large-scale alternations in downward-upward-downward-upward direction that often occurs during intense, sustained driving during strong storms.