Solar wind control of magnetospheric energy content: Substorm quenching and multiple onsets

SBP Karlsson*, HJ Opgenoorth, P Eglitis, K Kauristie, M Syrjäsuo, T. Pulkkinen, M Lockwood, R Nakamura, G Reeves, S Romanov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this paper we report coordinated multispacecraft and ground-based observations of a double substorm onset close to Scandinavia on November 17, 1996. The Wind and the Geotail spacecraft, which were located in the solar wind and the subsolar magnetosheath, respectively, recorded two periods of southward directed interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). These periods were separated by a short northward IMF excursion associated with a solar wind pressure pulse, which compressed the magnetosphere to such a degree that Geotail for a short period was located outside the bow shock. The first period of southward IMF initiated a substorm growth. phase, which was clearly detected by an array of ground-based instrumentation and by Interball in the northern tail lobe. A first substorm onset occurred in close relation to the solar wind pressure pulse impinging on the magnetopause and almost simultaneously with the northward turning of the IMF. However, this substorm did not fully develop. In clear association with the expansion of the magnetosphere at the end of the pressure pulse, the auroral expansion was stopped, and the northern sky cleared. We will present evidence that the change in the solar wind dynamic pressure actively quenched the energy available for any further substorm expansion. Directly after this period, the magnetometer network detected signatures of a renewed substorm growth phase, which was initiated by the second southward turning of the IMF and which finally lead to a second, and this time complete, substorm intensification. We have used our multipoint observations in order to understand the solar wind control of the substorm onset and substorm quenching. The relative timings between the observations on the various satellites and on the ground were used to infer a possible causal relationship between the solar wind pressure variations and consequent substorm development. Furthermore, using a relatively simple algorithm to model the tail lobe field and the total tail flux, we show that there indeed exists a close relationship between the relaxation of a solar wind pressure pulse, the reduction of the tail lobe field, and the quenching of the initial substorm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5335-5356
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberA3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2000
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed



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