Cutoff latitude variation during solar proton events: Causes and consequences
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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To accurately quantify the effect of solar proton events (SPEs) on the atmosphere requires a good estimate of the particle energy deposition in the middle atmosphere (60–100 km) and how the energy is distributed globally. Protons in the energy range 1–20 MeV, depositing their energy in the middle atmosphere, are subject to more complex dynamics with strong day-night asymmetries compared to higher-energy particles. Our study targets six SPEs from 2003 to 2012. By using measurements from the Medium Energy Proton and Electron Detector on all available Polar Orbit Environment Satellites (POES), we show that in the main phase of geomagnetic storms the dayside cutoff latitudes are pushed poleward, while the nightside cutoff latitudes have the opposite response, resulting in strong day-night asymmetries in the energy deposition. These features cannot be measured by the frequently used Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). Assuming that the protons impact the polar atmosphere homogeneously above a fixed nominal latitude boundary will therefore give a significant overestimate of the energy deposited in the middle atmosphere during SPEs. We discuss the magnetospheric mechanisms responsible for the local time response in the cutoff latitudes and provide a simple applicable parameterization which includes both dayside and nightside cutoff latitude variability using only the Dst, the northward component of the interplanetary magnetic field, and solar wind pressure. The parameterization is utilized on the GOES particle fluxes, and the resulting energy deposition successfully captures the day-night asymmetry in good agreement with the energy deposition predicted from the POES measurement.
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union