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Field-Aligned Currents in Auroral Vortices
  • Jay Robert Johnson,
  • Simon Wing,
  • Peter A Delamere
Jay Robert Johnson
Andrews University

Corresponding Author:jrj@andrews.edu

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Simon Wing
Johns Hopkins University
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Peter A Delamere
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Auroral bright spots have been observed at Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn in regions that map to the boundary layer. It has been suggested that the bright spots are associated with Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. We utilize a quasistatic magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling model driven by a vortex in the boundary layer to determine how the field-aligned current structure depends on ionospheric and boundary layer parameters. We compare vortex induced currents with shear-flow induced currents. We find that the strength of the maximum currents are comparable, but the structure is significantly different. For a vortex, the current and electron precipitation maximize when the vortex size mapped to the ionosphere is approximately 1.5 L, where L=(Σp/κ)1/2 is the auroral scale length, Σp is the Pedersen conductivity, and κ is the Knight parameter. For a vortex, the current width provides a direct measure of the size, Δ, of the boundary layer structure, while shear-flow aurora generally are determined by the larger of Δ or L. For comparison with observations, an event is considered where auroral bright spots in the ionosphere are detected by DMSP SUSSI UVI when Kelvin-Helmholtz structures are observed on the dusk flank by THEMIS.
Feb 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 126 issue 2. 10.1029/2020JA028583