EGU23-6462, updated on 25 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Layered structure of near equatorial, ring current density and its ionospheric coupling: multi-spacecraft observations

Xin Tan1, Malcolm Dunlop1,2, Yanyan Yang3, Xiangcheng Dong4, and Yingshuai Du1
Xin Tan et al.
  • 1School of Space and Environment, Beihang University, Beijing, China.
  • 2RAL_Space, STFC, Oxfordshire, UK.
  • 3National Institute of Natural Hazards, Ministry of Emergency Management of China, Beijing, China.
  • 4School of earth science, Yunnan University, Kunming, China.

The Earth’s ring current forms a complex current system at the boundary of the inner magnetosphere. It is highly dynamic because of the interaction between the solar wind with the Earth's magnetosphere (the influence of space weather), while its morphology depends on the nature of the magnetospheric-ionospheric (M-I) coupling, generating field-aligned currents (FACs). Its behaviour can therefore have a huge impact on the terrestrial environment. According to Ampere's law, these currents can be directly measured by perturbations in the magnetic field using multi-spacecraft observation techniques. We have analyzed the magnetic field data from the four MMS spacecraft in their small-sale configuration to obtain the in-situ current density and have carried out statistical analysis from several years of data. The form of the current density distribution and its changing nature has been investigated. Our results show that the current density exhibits a three-dimensional layered structure in the ring current region. The significant westward current on the day side flows to higher magnetic latitudes and complete closure there rather than to the magnetic equator. There are some differences between geomagnetic quiet period and storm period on current density, but the basic spatial structure remains similar and compares well with previous space mission data. Comparison with Swarm data at low Earth altitudes, we found that the stratification is consistent with the distribution of the R2 field-aligned currents seen both adjacent to the ring current and at ionospheric altitudes (at Swarm). In addition, significant continuous eastward currents exist in some latitudes and some regions, indicating the complexity of the ring current. Some of them can be explained by the formation of banana currents.

How to cite: Tan, X., Dunlop, M., Yang, Y., Dong, X., and Du, Y.: Layered structure of near equatorial, ring current density and its ionospheric coupling: multi-spacecraft observations, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6462,, 2023.

Supplementary materials

Supplementary material file