Azimuthal flow bursts in the inner plasma sheet and possible connection with SAPS and plasma sheet earthward flow bursts

L. R. Lyons, Y. Nishimura, B. Gallardo-Lacourt, M. J. Nicolls, S. Chen, D. L. Hampton, W. A. Bristow, J. M. Ruohoniemi, N. Nishitani, E. F. Donovan, V. Angelopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We have combined radar observations and auroral images obtained during the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar Ion Neutral Observations in the Thermosphere campaign to show the common occurrence of westward moving, localized auroral brightenings near the auroral equatorward boundary and to show their association with azimuthally moving flow bursts near or within the subauroral polarization stream (SAPS) region. These results indicate that the SAPS region, rather than consisting of relatively stable proton precipitation and westward flows, can have rapidly varying flows, with speeds varying from ~100m/s to ~1km/s in just a few minutes. The auroral brightenings are associated with bursts of weak electron precipitation that move westward with the westward flow bursts and extend into the SAPS region. Additionally, our observations show evidence that the azimuthally moving flow bursts often connect to earthward (equatorward in the ionosphere) plasma sheet flow bursts. This indicates that rather than stopping or bouncing, some flow bursts turn azimuthally after reaching the inner plasma sheet and lead to the bursts of strong azimuthal flow. Evidence is also seen for a general guiding of the flow bursts by the large-scale convection pattern, flow bursts within the duskside convection being azimuthally turned to the west, and those within the dawn cell being turned toward the east. The possibility that the SAPS region flow structures considered here may be connected to localized flow enhancements from the polar cap that cross the nightside auroral poleward boundary and lead to flow bursts within the plasma sheet warrants further consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5009-5021
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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