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What drove the Carrington event? An analysis of currents and geospace regions
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  • Dean Thomas,
  • Robert S Weigel,
  • Antti Aleksi Pulkkinen,
  • Peter Schuck,
  • Daniel T Welling,
  • Chigomezyo M Ngwira
Dean Thomas
George Mason University
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Robert S Weigel
George Mason University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Antti Aleksi Pulkkinen
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Peter Schuck
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Daniel T Welling
University of Michigan
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Chigomezyo M Ngwira
Catholic University of America
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The 1859 Carrington event is the most intense geomagnetic storm in recorded history, and the literature provides numerous explanations for what drove the negative $H$ perturbation on the Earth. There is debate on what dominated the event. Our analysis shows a combination of causes of similar orders of magnitude. Previous analyses generally rely upon on the observed $H$ perturbation at Colaba, India; historic newspaper reports; and empirical models. We expand the analysis using two Space Weather Modeling Framework simulations to examine what drove the event. We compute contributions from currents and geospace regions to the northward $B$ field on Earth’s surface, $B_N$. We examine magnetospheric currents parallel and perpendicular to the local $B$ field, ionospheric currents, and gap region field–aligned currents (FACs). We also evaluate contributions from the magnetosheath, near–Earth, and neutral sheet regions. A combination of currents and geospace regions significantly contribute to $B_N$ on the Earth’s surface, changing as the storm evolves. At storm onset, magnetospheric currents and gap–region FACs dominate in the equatorial region. At auroral latitudes, gap–region FACs and ionospheric currents are the largest contributors. At storm peak, azimuthal magnetospheric currents and gap–region FACs dominate at equatorial latitudes. Gap–region FACs and ionospheric currents dominate in the auroral zone, down to mid-latitudes. Both the magnetosheath and FACs contribute at storm peak, but are less significant than that from the near–Earth ring current. During recovery, the near–Earth ring current is the largest contributor at equatorial latitudes. Ionospheric currents and gap–region FACs dominate in the auroral zone.
05 Mar 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
13 Mar 2024Published in ESS Open Archive