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Cusp as a source for oxygen in the plasma sheet during geomagnetic storms

Cusp as a source for oxygen in the plasma sheet during geomagnetic storms

Publication date: 09 March 2010

Authors: Kistler, L.M. et al.

Journal: J. Geophys. Res.
Volume: 115
Page: A03209
Year: 2010

Copyright: American Geophysical Union

We have used the ion composition data from the CIS/CODIF instrument on Cluster to determine how the O+ population in the plasma sheet and the adjacent lobes changes during geomagnetic storms. The Cluster trajectory, which moves over the polar cap, into the lobe, and then into the plasma sheet on each orbit, allows us to track the changes in O+ in these regions for a prestorm orbit, main-phase orbit, and recovery phase orbit. We find that changes in the O+ density and pressure in the plasma sheet are similar to those commonly observed in the ring current during a storm. The O+ is low prestorm. It increases by about a factor of 10 just prior to or during the early main phase of the storm, and is reduced, but usually not down to prestorm levels, in the recovery phase. The lobes contain tailward streaming O+ which originates in the "cleft ion fountain". During the storms main phase, this population also increases. A detailed look at the main-phase passes shows that a significant increase in the O+/H+ ratio is observed when this lobe population reaches the plasma sheet, and the tailward streaming O+ is observed continuously as the spacecraft moves from the lobe into the plasma sheet. The enhanced O+ in the lobe and the plasma sheet is observed for many hours during the storm. The inward convection of this population is likely a significant contributor to the storm time ring current.

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