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New Insights Into the Substorm Initiation Sequence From the Spatio-Temporal Development of Auroral Electrojets.


In the present study we examine three substorm events, Events 1-3, focusing on the spatio-temporal development of auroral electrojets (AEJs) before auroral breakup. In Events 1 and 2, auroral breakup was preceded by the equatorward motion of an auroral form, and the ground magnetic field changed northward and southward in the west and east of the expected equatorward flow, respectively. Provided that these magnetic disturbances were caused by local ionospheric Hall currents, this feature suggests that the equatorward flow turned both eastward and westward as it reached the equatorward part of the auroral oval. The auroral breakup took place at the eastward-turning and westward-turning branches in Events 1 and 2, respectively, and after the auroral breakup, the westward AEJ enhanced only on the same side of the flow demarcation meridian. The zonal flow divergence is considered as an ionospheric manifestation of the braking of an earthward flow burst in the near-Earth plasma sheet and subsequent dawnward and duskward turning. Therefore, in Events 1 and 2, the auroral breakup presumably mapped to the dawnward and duskward flow branches, respectively. Moreover, for Event 3, we do not find any pre-onset auroral or magnetic features that can be associated with an equatorward flow. These findings suggest that the braking of a pre-onset earthward flow burst itself is not the direct cause of substorm onset, and therefore, the wedge current system that forms at substorm onset is distinct from the one that is considered to form as a consequence of the flow braking.

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