Are Unusual Solar Wind Conditions in SC23-24 Triggering Changes in the Geospace Response to High Speed Streams?

In the descent to solar minimum in solar cycle 23-24, the high-speed streams (HSS) were faster and longer lived than previous cycles but the average IMF was weaker and the average solar wind density lower than ever before recorded upstream of the Earth. A simulation of high speed stream activity on 22-24 January 2005 using the BATS-R-US MHD model with embedded Rice Convection Model driven by solar wind inputs indicates that, at least for this event, the interaction between high speed streams and the magnetosphere has been modified by these unusual solar wind conditions. Northward IMF in the HSS drove the periodic capture of solar wind/magnetosheath plasma in the dayside magnetosphere due to high-latitude reconnection. At times of observed strong periodic auroral activity, a significant IMF By component produced a magnetospheric sash configuration in the simulations in which fingers of enhanced plasma beta were associated with strong field-aligned currents linking to the nightside auroral region. In agreement with the simulations, IMAGE HENA observed low energy (less than tens of keV) hydrogen energetic neutral atoms peaking on the dayside for the 3-days of the high speed stream activity. IMAGE FUV and TIMED GUVI observed periodic auroral activations during the HSS that resembled poleward boundary intensifications (PBIs) rather than the periodic substorms typically associated with HSS. The locations of the observed PBIs in the southern hemisphere were consistent with the high-beta fingers in the near-Earth plasma sheet predicted by the simulation. Particle injection signatures at LANL geosynchronous satellites accompanied the PBIs. To our knowledge, these results provide the first evidence in support of the role of northward IMF in HSS interactions. Based on these results, a study of energetic neutral atom images from TWINS and IMAGE HENA along with observations from other missions in the Heliophysics System Observatory is underway to determine if these characteristics are typical of HSS interactions in the current unusual solar minimum and to search for consequences throughout geospace.
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