Relationship between wave-like auroral arcs and Pi2 disturbances in plasma sheet prior to substorm onset

Tzu Fang Chang, Chio Zong Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Wave-like substorm arc features in the aurora and Pi2 magnetic disturbances observed in the near-Earth plasma sheet are frequently, and sometimes simultaneously, observed around the substorm onset time. We perform statistical analyses of the THEMIS ASI auroral observations that show wave-like bright spot structure along the arc prior to substorm onset. The azimuthal mode number values of the wave-like substorm arcs are found to be in the range of ~100-240 and decrease with increasing geomagnetic latitude of the substorm auroral arc location. We suggest that the azimuthal mode number is likely related to the ion gyroradius and azimuthal wave number. We also perform correlation study of the pre-onset wave-like substorm arc features and Pi2 magnetic disturbances for substorm dipolarization events observed by THEMIS satellites during 2008-2009. The wave-like arc brightness structures on the substorm auroral arcs tend to move azimuthally westward, but with a few exceptions of eastward movement, during tens of seconds prior to the substorm onset. The movement of the wave-like arc brightness structure is linearly correlated with the phase velocity of the Pi2 δB y disturbances in the near-Earth plasma sheet region. The result suggests that the Pi2 transverse δB y disturbances are related to the intensifying wave-like substorm onset arcs. One plausible explanation of the observations is the kinetic ballooning instability, which has high azimuthal mode number due to the ion gyroradius effect and finite parallel electric field that accelerates electrons into the ionosphere to produce the wave-like arc structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number168
JournalEarth, Planets and Space
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Space and Planetary Science


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