08 Jun 2023
 | 08 Jun 2023

Three principal components describe the spatiotemporal development of meso-scale ionospheric equivalent currents around substorm onsets

Liisa Juusola, Ari Viljanen, Noora Partamies, Heikki Vanhamäki, Mirjam Kellinsalmi, and Simon Walker

Abstract. Substorms are a commonly occurring but insufficiently understood form of dynamics in the coupled magnetosphere-ionosphere system, associated with space weather disturbances and auroras. We have used Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to characterize the spatiotemporal development of ionospheric equivalent currents as observed by the International Monitor for Auroral Geomagnetic Effects (IMAGE) magnetometers during 28 substorm onsets identified by Frey et al. (2004). Auroral observations were provided by all-sky cameras. We found that the equivalent currents can typically be described by three components: a channel of poleward equivalent current (wedgelet), a westward electrojet (WEJ) associated with an auroral arc, and a vortex. The WEJ and vortex are located at the equatorward end of the channel, which has been associated with Bursty Bulk Flows (BBFs) by previous studies. Depending on its polarity, the vortex either indents the WEJ and arc equatorward, or bulges the WEJ poleward while winding the arc into an auroral spiral. In addition, there may be a background current system associated with the large-scale convection. The dynamics of the WEJ, vortex, and channel can describe up to 95 % of the variance of the time derivative of the equivalent currents during the examined 20 min interval. Rapid geomagnetic variations at the substorm onset location, which can drive Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) in technological conductor networks, are mainly associated with the oscillations of the WEJ, which may be driven by oscillations of the transition region between dipolar and tail-like field lines in the magnetotail due to the BBF impact. The results contribute to the understanding of substorm physics and to the understanding of processes that drive intense GIC.

Liisa Juusola et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1180', James M. Weygand, 10 Jul 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on CC1', Liisa Juusola, 01 Sep 2023
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1180', Larry Lyons, 30 Jul 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Liisa Juusola, 01 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1180', Anonymous Referee #2, 12 Aug 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Liisa Juusola, 01 Sep 2023

Liisa Juusola et al.

Liisa Juusola et al.


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Short summary
At times when auroras erupt on the sky, the magnetic field surrounding the Earth undergoes rapid changes. On the ground, these changes can induce harmful electric currents in technological conductor networks, such as powerlines. We have used magnetic field observations from North Europe during 28 such events and found consistent behavior that can help to understand, and thus predict, the processes that drive auroras and geomagnetically induced currents.