Global morphology of substorm growth phases observed by the IMAGE-SI12 imager

V. Coumans, C. Blockx, J. C. Gérard, B. Hubert, M. Connors

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We present case studies and a statistical summary of optical observations of proton precipitation made during substorm growth phases. Our analysis is based on observations of the Doppler-shifted Lyman-a auroral emission obtained with the SI12 Spectrographic Imager on board the IMAGE satellite. These images are used to determine the morphology and dynamics of the auroral oval and of the polar cap boundary on a global scale, as well as the total open magnetic flux and its time evolution. We also investigate the relationship with the solar wind and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) characteristics measured by the ACE satellite and with the magnetic elevation angle measured by GOES-8. The statistical study shows that the sector of maximum proton precipitation during the growth phase is on average centered around 2200 MLT and rapidly shifts in local time by about 1.2 h toward midnight at the time of the onset. The open magnetic flux increases by 33% on average during the growth phase. The mean value of the open flux immediately before the substorm onset is about 0.66 GWb for substorms triggered by a northward turning of Bz and 0.74 GWb for nontriggered substorms. The averaged open flux at the substorm onset is smallest when the substorm is triggered by a sudden reversal of Bz, suggesting that the accumulation of energy by the magnetosphere is perturbed by changes in Bz. The open magnetic flux continues to increase during the 20 min following the onset, for a large number of events. The rate of equatorward displacement of the auroral oval boundaries during growth phase is typically ∼3 deg/h. It is statistically correlated (r = 0.40) with the magnitude of the Bz component of the IMF measured by the ACE satellite. It is also correlated, with higher coefficient (r = 0.54), with functions describing the efficiency of solar wind energy transfer involving the transverse electric field carried by the solar wind. The equatorward motion may be glpbal, restricted to local time sectors or a combination of both. At no nightside local time sector does the motion of the equatorial boundary appear more pronounced than at others, but the maximum displacement of the polar boundary is statistically located around midnight MLT.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA11211
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov. 2007


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