Mesoscale Convection Structures Associated With Airglow Patches Characterized Using Cluster-Imager Conjunctions

L. V. Goodwin, Y. Nishimura, Y. Zou, K. Shiokawa, P. T. Jayachandran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Polar cap ionospheric plasma flow studies often focus on large-scale averaged properties and neglect the mesoscale component. However, recent studies have shown that mesoscale flows are often found to be collocated with airglow patches. These mesoscale flows are typically a few hundred meters per second faster than the large-scale background and are associated with major auroral intensifications when they reach the poleward boundary of the nightside auroral oval. Patches often also contain ionospheric signatures of enhanced field-aligned currents and localized electron flux enhancements, indicating that patches are associated with magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling on open field lines. However, magnetospheric measurements of this coupling are lacking, and it has not been understood what the magnetospheric signatures of patches on open field lines are. The work presented here explores the magnetospheric counterpart of patches and the role these structures have in plasma transport across the open field-line region in the magnetosphere. Using red-line emission measurements from the Resolute Bay Optical Mesosphere Thermosphere Imager, and magnetospheric measurements made by the Cluster spacecraft, conjugate events from 2005 to 2009 show that lobe measurements on field lines connected to patches display (1) electric field enhancements, (2) Region 1 sense field-aligned currents, (3) field-aligned enhancements in soft electron flux, (4) downward Poynting fluxes, and (5) in some cases enhancements in ion flux, including ion outflows. These observations indicate that patches highlight a localized fast flow channel system that is driven by the magnetosphere and propagates from the dayside to the nightside, most likely being initiated by enhanced localized dayside reconnection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7513-7532
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • airglow patch
  • field-aligned current
  • field-aligned electron flux enhancements
  • localized polar cap flow enhancement
  • magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling
  • polar cap convection


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