SuperDARN studies of the ionosphere convection response to a northward turning of the interplanetary magnetic field

J. R. Taylor, S. W. H. Cowley, T. K. Yeoman, M. Lester, T. B. Jones, R. A. Greenwald, G. Sofko, J. -P. Villian, R. P. Lepping, M. R. Hairston

Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK


The response of the dayside ionospheric flow to a sharp change in the direction of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) measured by the WIND spacecraft from negative BZ and positive BY, to positive BZ and small BY, has been studied using SuperDARN radar, DMSP satellite, and ground magnetometer data. In response to the IMF change, the flow underwent a transition from a distorted twin-cell flow involving antisunward flow over the polar cap, to a multi-cell flow involving a region of sunward flow at high latitudes near noon. The radar data have been studied at the highest time resolution available (~2 min) to determine how this transition took place. It is found that the dayside flow responded promptly to the change in the IMF, with changes in radar and magnetic data starting within a few minutes of the estimated time at which the effects could first have reached the dayside ionosphere. The data also indicate that sunward flows appeared promptly at the start of the flow change (within ~2 min), localized initially in a small region near noon at the equatorward edge of the radar backscatter band. Subsequently the region occupied by these flows expanded rapidly east-west and poleward, over intervals of ~7 and ~14 min respectively, to cover a region at least 2 h wide in local time and 5° in latitude, before rapid evolution ceased in the noon sector. In the lower latitude dusk sector the evolution extended for a further ~6 min before quasi-steady conditions again prevailed within the field-of-view. Overall, these observations are shown to be in close conformity with expectations based on prior theoretical discussion, except for the very prompt appearance of sunward flows after the onset of flow change.

Ann. Geophysicae, 16, 549-565, 1998