Overview of solar wind - magnetosphere - ionosphere - atmosphere coupling and the generation of magnetospheric currents
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
We review the morphology and dynamics of the electrical current systems of the terrestrial magnetosphere and ionosphere. Observations from the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) over the three years 2010 to 2012 are employed to illustrate the variability of the field-aligned currents that couple the magnetosphere and ionosphere, on timescales from minutes to years, in response to the impact of solar wind disturbances on the magnetosphere and changes in the level of solar illumination of the polar ionospheres. The variability is discussed within the context of the occurrence of magnetic reconnection between the solar wind and terrestrial magnetic fields at the magnetopause, the transport of magnetic flux within the magnetosphere, and the onset of magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail. The conditions under which the currents are expected to be weak, and hence minimally contaminate measurements of the internally-produced magnetic field of the Earth, are briefly outlined.