Cusp/cleft auroral activity in relation to solar wind dynamic pressure, interplanetary magnetic field Bz and By


Continuous optical observations of cusp/cleft auroral activities within ≈ 09-15 MLT and 70-76° magnetic latitude are studied in relation to changes in solar wind dynamic pressure and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) variability. The observed latitudinal movements of the cusp/cleft aurora in response to IMF Bz changes may be explained as an effect of a variable magnetic field intensity in the outer dayside magnetosphere associated with the changing intensity of region 1 field-aligned currents and associated closure currents. Ground magnetic signatures related to such currents were observed in the present case (January 10, 1993). Strong, isolated enhancements in solar wind dynamic pressure (Δp/p ≥ 0.5) gave rise to equatorward shifts of the cusp/cleft aurora, characteristic auroral transients, and distinct ground magnetic signatures of enhanced convection at cleft latitudes. A sequence of auroral events of ≈ 5-10 min recurrence time, moving eastward along the poleward boundary of the persistent cusp/cleft aurora in the ≈ 10-14 MLT sector, during negative IMF Bz and By, conditions, were found to be correlated with brief pulses in solar wind dynamic pressure (0.1 < Δp/p < 0.5). Simultaneous photometer observations from Ny Ålesund, Svalbard, and Danmarkshavn, Greenland, show that the events often appeared on the prenoon side (≈ 10-12 MLT), before moving into the postnoon sector in the case we study here, when IMF By < 0. In other cases, similar auroral event sequences have been observed to move westward in the prenoon sector, during intervals of positive By. Thus a strong prenoon/postnoon asymmetry of event occurence and motion pattern related to the IMF By polarity is observed. We find that this category of auroral event sequence is stimulated bursts of electron precipitation that originate from magnetosheath plasma that has accessed the dayside magnetosphere in the noon or near-noon sector, possibly at high latitudes, partly governed by the IMF orientation as well as by solar wind dynamic pressure pulses.

Publication Date


Journal Title

JGR: Space Physics



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type