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A new model for auroral breakup during substorms

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4 Author(s)
Rothwell, P.L. ; Hanscom Air Force Base, Bedford, MA, USA ; Block, L.P. ; Silevitch, Michael B. ; Falthammar, Carl-Gunne

A model for substorm breakup is developed, based on (1) the relaxation of stretched (closed) dipolar field lines, and (2) the formation of an incipient current wedge within a single arc structure. It is argued that the establishment of a coupled current structure within a single arc leads to a quasistable system, i.e. the prebreakup regime. Perturbation of the prebreakup structure leads to an instability criterion. It is found, consistent with observations, that the narrower auroral arcs at lower L shells undergo the most explosive poleward expansion. According to this model, the precise location at which breakup occurs depends on the O+ density in the plasma sheet, the level of magnetic activity (Kp), and the intensity of the substorm westward electrojet in the ionosphere. An enhancement of any of these features will cause breakup to occur at lower L shells. Comparison of the proposed model with the Heppner-Maynard polar-cap potential model indicates that breakup is restricted to the west of the Harang discontinuity, consistent with observations from the Viking satellite

Published in:

Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 2 )

Date of Publication:

Apr 1989

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