Extreme ionospheric ion energization and electron heating in Alfvén waves in the storm time inner magnetosphere

C. C. Chaston, J. W. Bonnell, J. R. Wygant, C. A. Kletzing, G. D. Reeves, Andrew Gerrard, L. Lanzerotti, C. W. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We report measurements of energized outflowing/bouncing ionospheric ions and heated electrons in the inner magnetosphere during a geomagnetic storm. The ions arrive in the equatorial plane with pitch angles that increase with energy over a range from tens of eV to > 50 keV while the electrons are field aligned up to ~1 keV. These particle distributions are observed during intervals of broadband low-frequency electromagnetic field fluctuations consistent with a Doppler-shifted spectrum of kinetic Alfvén waves and kinetic field line resonances. The fluctuations extend from L ≈ 3 out to the apogee of the Van Allen Probes spacecraft at L ≈ 6.5. They thereby span most of the L shell range occupied by the ring current. These measurements suggest a model for ionospheric ion outflow and energization driven by dispersive Alfvén waves that may account for the large storm time contribution of ionospheric ions to magnetospheric energy density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10531-10540
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 28 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Alfven waves
  • electron precipitation
  • geomagnetic storms
  • ion acceleration
  • ion outflow
  • ion upflow


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