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Chorus intensity modulation driven by time‐varying field‐aligned low‐energy plasma


©2015. American Geophysical Union. Recent studies have shown that chorus waves are responsible for scattering and precipitating the energetic electrons that drive the pulsating aurora. While some of the chorus intensity modulation events are correlated with <~100eV electron density modulation, most of the chorus intensity modulation events in the postmidnight sector occur without apparent density changes. Although it is generally difficult to measure evolution of low-energy (<~20eV) electron fluxes due to constraints imposed by the spacecraft potential and electrostatic analyzer (ESA) energy range limit, we identified using Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellite data that low-energy ions of ~100eV show density modulation that is correlated with chorus intensity modulation. Those low-energy ions and electrons are field-aligned with major peaks in 0° (for northern hemisphere winter event) and 180° (for northern hemisphere summer event) pitch angle, indicating that outflowing plasma from the sunlit hemisphere is the source of the low-energy plasma density modulation near the equator. Plasma sheet plasma density, and ambient electric and magnetic fields do not show modulations that are correlated with the chorus intensity modulation. Assuming charge neutrality, the low-energy ions can be used to represent cold plasma density in wave growth rate calculations, and the enhancements of the low-energy plasma density are found to contribute most effectively to chorus linear growth rates. These results suggest that chorus intensity modulation is driven by a feedback process where outflowing plasma due to energetic electron precipitation increases the equatorial density that drives further electron precipitation.

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