Statistical comparison of isolated and non-isolated auroral substorms


The present study compares isolated and non-isolated substorms in terms of their global morphology and energy deposition. The analysis is based on a list of geomagnetic substorm onsets identified with magnetometer data from SuperMAG and published previously by Newell and Gjerlove (2011a). Isolated substorms are defined as those with separation of two consecutive onsets no less than 3 h. The auroral data are obtained from the global ultraviolet imager (GUVI) on board the TIMED satellite and are rebinned into typical magnetic latitude-magnetic local time maps. The auroral maps are then averaged in 1 min intervals to show the dynamic change of the aurora. The three phases of the substorm are clearly demonstrated in both isolated and non-isolated substorms. However, there are noticeable differences between the two types of substorms: (1) While the nighttime auroral power for both types of substorms slightly increases in the growth phase, isolated (non-isolated) substorms are associated with smaller (greater) nighttime auroral power. (2) In the expansion phase, isolated substorms are associated with greater and more explosive energy release than non-isolated substorms. (3) The time for the recovery phase is ~2 times longer for isolated than for non-isolated substorms. (4) The winter-to-summer auroral power ratio is approximately constant throughout the three substorm phases and the ratio is larger for isolated (~30\%) than that for non-isolated (~10\%) substorms. It is also found that the polar cap area increases during the growth phase until ~10 min prior to the magnetic substorm onset and decreases rapidly thereafter. The decrease is found to result from the closure of the nightside polar cap associated with substorm expansion. It is found that the observed differences between the two types of substorms simply reflect the differences in the solar wind and EUV drivers. Thus, we conclude that there is no intrinsic difference between isolated and non-isolated substorms in terms of auroral energy release and subsequent auroral power decay.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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