Electric currents of a substorm current wedge on 24 February 2010

Martin Connors, Robert L. McPherron, Brian J. Anderson, Haje Korth, Christopher T. Russell, Xiangning Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The three-dimensional "substorm current wedge" (SCW) was postulated by McPherron et al. (1973) to explain substorm magnetic perturbations. The origin and coherence as a physical system of this important paradigm of modern space physics remained unclear, however, with progress hindered by gross undersampling, and uniqueness problems in data inversion. Complementing AMPERE (Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment) space-derived radial electric currents with ground magnetic data allowing us to determine currents from the ionosphere up, we overcome problems of uniqueness identified by Fukushima (1969, 1994). For a substorm on 24 February 2010, we quantify SCW development consistently from ground and space data. Its westward electrojet carries 0.5 MA in the more poleward part of the auroral oval, in Region 1 (R1) sense spanning midnight. The evening sector electrojet also feeds into its upward current. We thus validate the SCW concept and obtain parameters needed for quantitative study of substorms. Key Points Auroral zone electric currents should be determined from both ground and space The substorm current wedge to first order represents substorm currents well Magnetic inversions can give useful quantitative parameters of the current wedge

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4449-4455
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul. 2014


  • current wedge
  • magnetic inversion
  • substorms


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