Low-Latitude Zonal Ion Drifts and Their Relationship With Subauroral Polarization Streams and Auroral Return Flows During Intense Magnetic Storms

We analyze horizontal plasma drifts measured by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites during two intense magnetic storms. It is found, for the first time, that westward plasma flows associated with subauroral polarization streams (SAPS) in the dusk-evening sector penetrate continuously to equatorial latitudes. The westward ion drifts between subauroral and equatorial latitudes occur nearly simultaneously. The latitudinal profile of the westward ion drifts at low latitudes (approximately within ±30° magnetic latitude [MLat]) is relatively flat, and the westward ion drifts at the magnetic equator reach 200–300 m s−1. In the dawn-morning sector, eastward ion drifts at subauroral latitudes are also SAPS. The storm-time dawnside auroral boundary moves to ∼±55° MLat, and the dawnside SAPS penetrate to ∼±20° MLat at 0930 local time. A dawnside SAPS flow channel appears to exist, although it is not as well defined as the duskside SAPS flow channel. Thermospheric wind data measured by the Challenging Minisatellite Payload satellite are analyzed, and zonal disturbance winds are derived. Disturbance winds can reach equatorial latitudes rapidly near midnight but are limited to ±40° geographic latitude or higher near noon. The effects of disturbance winds on the zonal ion drifts at middle and low latitudes are discussed. It is suggested that both the westward ion drifts at middle and low latitudes in the dusk-evening sector and the eastward ion drifts at middle and lower latitudes in the dawn-morning sector are caused primarily by penetration of the SAPS and auroral electric fields.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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