A New Empirical Model of the Subauroral Polarization Stream

B. S.R. Kunduri, J. B.H. Baker, J. M. Ruohoniemi, N. Nishitani, K. Oksavik, P. J. Erickson, A. J. Coster, S. G. Shepherd, W. A. Bristow, E. S. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Regions of persistent westward directed flows are often observed equatorward of the auroral oval in the dusk-midnight sector. In general, the midnight narrow flows are termed as subauroral ion drifts and the duskside broader flows are termed subauroral polarization streams (SAPS). SAPS/subauroral ion drift electric fields play an important role in controlling the dynamics of the midlatitude ionosphere. In this paper we analyze longitudinally extended observations of SAPS measured by midlatitude Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) radars under varied geomagnetic conditions. We find that SAPS speeds exhibit a strong dependence on geomagnetic activity, with flows exceeding 1,500 m/s during geomagnetic storms and dropping to 100 m/s during periods of geomagnetic quiet. Moreover, SAPS flows turn increasingly poleward when moving from the midnight sector toward dusk and this effect is more pronounced during disturbed geomagnetic conditions. The variations in SAPS speeds with magnetic local time (MLT) are also found to be strongly dependent on geomagnetic conditions. Specifically, SAPS speeds increase quasilinearly with MLT during disturbed geomagnetic conditions, whereas during relatively quiet geomagnetic conditions there is no discernible trend. This behavior suggests the possibility of different mechanisms influencing SAPS during geomagnetically quiet conditions. Average cross-SAPS potentials increase with geomagnetic activity and typically vary between 15 and 45 kV. Finally, a new empirical model of SAPS potentials has been developed parameterized by Asy-H index, MLT, and magnetic latitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7342-7357
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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