On the current-voltage relationship in auroral breakups and westwards-travelling surges

Olsson, A.; Eriksson, A. I.; Janhunen, P.

Auroral precipitating electrons pass through an acceleration region before entering the atmosphere. Regardless of what produces it, a parallel electric field is assumed to cause the acceleration. It is well known that from kinetic theory an expression for the corresponding upward field-aligned current can be calculated, which under certain assumptions can be linearized to j= KV. The K constant, referred to as the Lyons-Evans-Lundin constant, depends on the source density and thermal energy of the magnetospheric electrons; it is an important parameter in magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling models. However, the K parameter is still rather unknown, and values are found in a wide range of 10 –8–10 –10 S m –2. In this study, we investigated how the type of auroral structure affects the K values. We look at onset and westwards-travelling surge ( WTS) events and make comparisons with earlier results from observations of more stable auroral arcs. A new analysis technique for studying those magnetospheric parameters using ground-based measurements is introduced. Electron density measurements are taken with the EISCAT radar, and through an inversion technique the flux-energy spectra are calculated. Source densities, thermal energies and potential drops are estimated from fittings of accelerated Maxwellian distributions. With this radar technique we have the possibility to study the changes of the mentioned parameters during the development of onsets and the passage of surges over EISCAT. The study indicates that the linearization of the full Knight formulation holds even for the very high potential drops and thermal temperatures found in the dynamic onset and WTS events. The values of K are found to be very low, around 10 –11 S m –2 in onset cases as well as WTS events. The results may establish a new technique where ionospheric measurements are used for studying the ionosphere-magnetosphere coupling processes.



Olsson, A. / Eriksson, A. I. / Janhunen, P.: On the current-voltage relationship in auroral breakups and westwards-travelling surges. 1996. Springer Verlag.


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