PARALLEL ELECTRIC FIELD ON AURORAL MAGNETIC FIELD LINES
YEH, HUEY-CHING BETTY
Doctor of Philosophy
The interaction of Birkeland (magnetic-field-aligned) current carriers and the Earth's magnetic field results in electrostatic potential drops along magnetic field lines. The statistical distributions of the field-aligned potential difference (phi)(,(PARLL)) were determined from the energy spectra of electron inverted "V" events observed at ionospheric altitude for different conditions of geomagnetic activity as indicated by the AE index. Data of 1270 electron inverted "V"'s were obtained from Low-Energy Electron measurements of the Atmosphere Explorer-C and -D Satellite (despun mode) in the interval January 1974-April 1976. In general, (phi)(,(PARLL)) is largest in the dusk to pre-midnight sector, smaller in the post-midnight to dawn sector, and smallest in the near noon sector during quiet and disturbed geomagnetic conditions; there is a steady dusk-dawn-noon asymmetry of the global (phi)(,(PARLL)) distribution. As the geomagnetic activity level increases, the (phi)(,(PARLL)) pattern expands to lower invariant latitudes, and the magnitude of (phi)(,(PARLL)) in the 13-24 magnetic local time sector increases significantly. The spatial structure and intensity variation of the global (phi)(,(PARLL)) distribution are statistically more variable, and the magnitudes of (phi)(,(PARLL)) have smaller correlation with the AE-index, in the post-midnight to dawn sector. A strong correlation is found to exist between upward Birkeland current systems and global parallel potential drops, and between auroral electron precipitation patterns and parallel potential drops, regarding their mophology, their intensity and their dependence of geomagnetic activity. An analysis of the fine-scale simultaneous current-voltage relationship for upward Birkeland currents in Region 1 shows that typical field-aligned potential drops are consistent with model predictions based on linear acceleration of the charge carriers through an electrostatic potential drop along convergent magnetic field lines to maintain current continuity. In a steady state, this model of simple electrostatic acceleration without anomalous resistivity also predicts observable relations between global parallel currents and parallel potential drops and between global energy deposition and parallel potential drops. The temperature, density, and species of the unaccelerated charge carriers are the relevant parameters of the model. The dusk-dawn-noon asymmetry of the global (phi)(,(PARLL)) distribution can be explained by the above steady-state (phi)(,(PARLL)) process if we associate the source regions of upward Birkeland current carriers in Region 1, Region 2, and the cusp region with the plasma sheet boundary layer, the near-Earth plasma sheet, and the magnetosheath, respectively. The results of this study provide observational information on the global distribution of parallel potential drops and the prevailing process of generating and maintaining potential gradients (parallel electric fields) along auroral magnetic field lines.