Energy deposition by Alfvén waves into the dayside auroral oval: Cluster and FAST observations





Citation of Original Publication

Chaston, C. C., and et al. (2005), Energy deposition by Alfvén waves into the dayside auroral oval: Cluster and FAST observations, J. Geophys. Res., 110, A02211, doi:10.1029/2004JA010483.


This work was written as part of one of the author's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.
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We report in situ observations from the Cluster and FAST spacecraft showing the deposition of energy into the auroral ionosphere from broadband ULF waves in the cusp and low-latitude boundary layer. A comparison of the wave Poynting flux with particle energy and flux at both satellites indicates that energy transfer from the broadband waves to the plasma occurs through field-aligned electron acceleration, transverse ion acceleration, and Joule heating. These processes are shown to result in precipitating electron fluxes sufficient to drive bright aurora and cause outflows of energized electrons and O+ ions from the ionosphere into the low-latitude boundary layer. By solving an eigenmode equation for Alfvén waves in the observed plasma environment, it is shown that the broadband waves observed at Cluster and FAST are dispersive Alfvén waves. It is demonstrated that these waves have wavelengths perpendicular to the geomagnetic field extending from significant fractions of an L shell down to ion gyroradii and electron inertial lengths and wave frequencies in the plasma frame from 1 mHz up to 50 mHz. These waves are shown to have wavelengths along the geomagnetic field of the order of the field line length between the ionosphere and the equatorial plane and become field line resonances (FLRs) when on closed field lines. It is shown that the inclusion of nonlinear and/or nonlocal kinetic effects is required in the description of these waves to account for accelerated particles observed. On the basis of the wave polarization and spectral properties observed from Cluster and FAST it is speculated that these waves are generated through the mode conversion of surface Alfvén waves driven by tailward flows in the low-latitude boundary layer.