Juusola, Liisa
(Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
In this thesis, the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling is studied observationally, with the main focus on the ionospheric currents in the auroral region. The thesis consists of five research articles and an introductory part that summarises the most important results reached in the articles and places them in a wider context within the field of space physics.
Ionospheric measurements are provided by the International Monitor for Auroral Geomagnetic Effects (IMAGE) magnetometer network, by the low-orbit CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) satellite, by the European Incoherent SCATter (EISCAT) radar, and by the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite. Magnetospheric observations, on the other hand, are acquired from the four spacecraft of the Cluster mission, and solar wind observations from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) and Wind spacecraft.
Within the framework of this study, a new method for determining the ionospheric currents from low-orbit satellite-based magnetic field data is developed. In contrast to previous techniques, all three current density components can be determined on a matching spatial scale, and the validity of the necessary one-dimensionality approximation, and thus, the quality of the results, can be estimated directly from the data. The new method is applied to derive an empirical model for estimating the Hall-to-Pedersen conductance ratio from ground-based magnetic field data, and to investigate the statistical dependence of the large-scale ionospheric currents on solar wind and geomagnetic parameters. Equations describing the amount of field-aligned current in the auroral region, as well as the location of the auroral electrojets, as a function of these parameters are derived. Moreover, the mesoscale (10-1000 km) ionospheric equivalent currents related to two magnetotail plasma sheet phenomena, bursty bulk flows and flux ropes, are studied. Based on the analysis of 22 events, the typical equivalent current pattern related to bursty bulk flows is established. For the flux ropes, on the other hand, only two conjugate events are found. As the equivalent current patterns during these two events are not similar, it is suggested that the ionospheric signatures of a flux rope depend on the orientation and the length of the structure, but analysis of additional events is required to determine the possible ionospheric connection of flux ropes.