• Role of ionospheric conductance in magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling

      Bhattacharya, Tapas; Otto, Antonius; Bristow, William; Conde, Mark; Lummerzheim, Dirk; Ng, Chung-Sang (2014-08)
      Magnetosphere-ionosphere (MI) coupling has been studied for a long time. However, not much work has been done on a systematic understanding of the relation between ionospheric Pedersen conductance, its effect on the evolution and modification of field-aligned currents (FACs), and the influence of conductance and FACs on the formation of parallel electric fields which cause particle precipitation. Though the roles of ionospheric conductance gradients for FACs and parallel electric field evolution are directly related, they are poorly understood. This dissertation advances the understanding of these areas and all results of this study are based on numerical simulations that employ a three-dimensional - two-fluid (ions and neutrals) simulation code. The first part of this dissertation presents a systematic study of the magnetospheric and ionospheric influences on the evolution and modification of FACs with focus on the role of ionospheric Pedersen conductance and its gradients. FACs are typically generated in the magnetosphere and are carried into the ionosphere by Alfvén waves. During their reflection from the ionosphere these FACs are modified depending on the magnitude and distribution of ionospheric conductance. For conductance gradients along the polarization of the wave, strong Pedersen currents can be generated which in turn enhance the FAC as well. The second part of this dissertation addresses the properties and evolution of parallel electric fields in an attempt to better understand the formation of discrete auroral arcs in response to the evolution of FACs for predetermined ionospheric conductance patterns. Frequently, auroral acceleration is believed to occur through U or V shaped potentials. Therefore, this part examines the properties of localized parallel electric fields in a uniform magnetic field. It is demonstrated that localized parallel electric fields generate magnetic flux in the absence of source of free energy. It is also shown that parallel electric fields generated in a FAC in the presence of a (anomalous) resistivity represent a load and can provide physical explanation for the auroral acceleration geometry. The results demonstrate that such electric fields can be significantly enhanced by Alfvén wave reflection where both magnitude and gradients of the ionospheric conductance are important. The strongly enhanced parallel electric field is associated with magnetic reconnection and modifies the FAC system such that thin current layers (with curls and folds) are observed to be embedded in the large scale current system.