A Dynamic Coupled Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Ring Current Model
Toffoletto, Frank R.
Doctor of Philosophy
In this thesis we describe a coupled model of Earth's magnetosphere that consists of the Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry (LFM) global magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulation, the MIX ionosphere solver and the Rice Convection Model (RCM). We report some results of the coupled model using idealized inputs and model parameters. The algorithmic and physical components of the model are described, including the transfer of magnetic field information and plasma boundary conditions to the RCM and the return of ring current plasma properties to the LFM. Crucial aspects of the coupling include the restriction of RCM to regions where field-line averaged plasma-beta <=1, the use of a plasmasphere model, and the MIX ionosphere model. Compared to stand-alone MHD, the coupled model produces a substantial increase in ring current pressure and reduction of the magnetic field near the Earth. In the ionosphere, stronger region-1 and region-2 Birkeland currents are seen in the coupled model but with no significant change in the cross polar cap potential drop, while the region-2 currents shielded the low-latitude convection potential. In addition, oscillations in the magnetic field are produced at geosynchronous orbit with the coupled code. The diagnostics of entropy and mass content indicate that these oscillations are associated with low-entropy flow channels moving in from the tail and may be related to bursty bulk flows and bubbles seen in observations. As with most complex numerical models, there is the ongoing challenge of untangling numerical artifacts and physics, and we find that while there is still much room for improvement, the results presented here are encouraging. Finally, we introduce several new methods for magnetospheric visualization and analysis, including a fluid-spatial volume for RCM and a field-aligned analysis mesh for the LFM. The latter allows us to construct novel visualizations of flux tubes, drift surfaces, topological boundaries, and bursty-bulk flows.