Dayside Polar Cap Density Enhancements Formed During Substorms

L. V. Goodwin, Y. Nishimura, A. J. Coster, S. Zhang, N. Nishitani, J. M. Ruohoniemi, B. J. Anderson, Q. H. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The formation of polar cap density enhancements, such as tongues-of-ionization (TOIs), are often attributed to enhanced dayside reconnection and convection due to solar wind changes. However, ionospheric poleward moving density enhancements can also form in the absence of changes in the solar wind. This study examines how TOI and patch events that are not triggered by solar wind changes relate to magnetospheric processes, specifically substorms. Based on total electron content and Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) observations, we find substorms that occur at the same time as TOIs are associated with sudden enhancements in dayside poleward flows during the substorm expansion phase. Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) observations also show enhanced field-aligned currents (FACs) that extend into the dayside ionosphere during this period. We suggest that the global enhancement of FACs and convection during these substorms are the drivers of these TOIs by enhancing dayside convection and transporting high-density lower-latitude plasma into the polar cap. However, we also find that not all substorms are coincident with polar cap density enhancements. A superposed epoch study showed that the AL index for TOIs during substorms is not particularly stronger than substorms without TOIs, but epoch studies of AMPERE observations do show events with TOIs to have a higher total FAC on both the dayside and nightside. Our results show the importance of TOI formation during substorms when solar wind drivers are absent, and the importance of considering substorms in the global current system. This work also shows the need to incorporate substorms into models of high-latitude global convection and currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JA028101
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • convection
  • ionosphere
  • irregularities
  • magnetosphere
  • polar cap
  • substorms


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