Annual and semiannual variations of the location and intensity of large-scale field-aligned currents

S. Ohtani, G. Ueno, T. Higuchi, H. Kawano

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The present study examines seasonal variations of large-scale field-aligned current(FAC) Systems in terms of the dipole tilt and clock angles. Magnetic field measurements from the DMSP F7 and F12-F15 satellites are used. This data set consists of a total of ∼185,000 auroral oval crossings, out of which ∼121,000 crossings were selected for the present analysis. Focus is placed on the latitude at the demarcation between the region 2 (R2) and region 1 (R1) currents and the intensities of these currents. It is found that the dayside FAC moves poleward and equatorward in the summer and winter hemispheres, respectively, and the nightside FAC has the opposite seasonal dependence. In the midday sector the peak-to-peak variation of the FAC latitude over the entire range of the dipole tilt is ∼5°, whereas it is ∼4° around midnight. In the flank sectors the average FAC latitude is higher around the solstices than around the equinoxes irrespective of hemisphere. The corresponding dependence on the dipole clock angle can actually be found for almost all local time sectors, although the peak-to-peak variation of the expected semiannual variation, 2° around noon and <1° in other local time sectors, is smaller than that of the annual variation except for the flank sectors. A comparison with a model magnetic field strongly suggests that the dipole tilt effect on the magnetospheric configuration is the primary cause of the annual variation, whereas the semiannual variation is inferred to reflect the fact that geomagnetic activity tends to be higher around the equinoxes. The average dayside FAC intensity is larger in the summer hemisphere than in the winter hemisphere, which can be explained in terms of the seasonal variation of the ionospheric conductivity. The dayside R1 current intensity depends more strongly on the dipole tilt than the dayside R2 current intensity, and it changes by a factor of 2-3 over the entire range of the dipole tilt angle. In contrast, the annual variation of the nightside FAC intensity is more complicated, and the nightside R2 current seems to be more intense in the winter hemisphere than in the summer hemisphere. The dependence of the FAC intensity on the dipole clock angle is less significant especially for the R1 system. Nevertheless, the result suggests that the FAC tends to be more intense around the equinoxes, which is consistent with the semiannual variation of geomagnetic activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA01216
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue numberA1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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