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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Predominance of ECH wave contribution to diffuse aurora in Earth's outer magnetosphere

  • Author(s): Zhang, XJ
  • Angelopoulos, V
  • Ni, B
  • Thorne, RM
  • et al.

© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Due to its importance for global energy dissipation in the ionosphere, the diffuse aurora has been intensively studied in the past 40years. Its origin (precipitation of 0.5-10keV electrons from the plasma sheet without potential acceleration) has been generally attributed to whistler-mode chorus wave scattering in the inner magnetosphere (R < ~8 R E ), while the scattering mechanism beyond that distance remains unresolved. By modeling the quasi-linear diffusion of electrons with realistic parameters for the magnetic field, loss cone size, and wave intensity (obtained from Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) observations as a function of magnetospheric location), we estimate the loss cone filling ratio and electron cyclotron harmonic (ECH) wave-induced electron precipitation systematically throughout the entire data set, from 6 R E out to 31 R E (the THEMIS apogee). By comparing the wave-induced precipitation directly with the equatorially mapped energy flux distribution of the diffuse aurora from ionospheric observations (OVATION Prime model) at low altitudes, we quantify the contribution of auroral energy flux precipitated due to ECH wave scattering. Although the wave amplitudes decrease, as expected, with distance from the Earth, due to the smaller loss cone size and stretched magnetic field topology, ECH waves are still capable of causing sufficient scattering of plasma sheet electrons to account for the observed diffuse auroral dissipation. Our results demonstrate that ECH waves are the dominant driver of the diffuse aurora in the outer magnetosphere, beyond ~8 R E .

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