The source of the steep plasma density gradient in middle latitudes during the 11\textendash12 April 2001 storm


A steep plasma density gradient has been observed in the middle-latitude F region during large geomagnetic storms. This phenomenon can be understood as a special form of the middle-latitude ionization trough (hereafter trough), but its causal linkage has not yet been clarified. We investigate the association of the steep density gradient and the trough by comparing their morphologies and occurrence locations using the satellite and ground observation data during the 11\textendash12 April 2001 storm. Steep density gradients are detected in the dusk sector at the equatorward edges of the aurora by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F13 spacecraft. The locations of the steep density gradients coincide with the locations of the ionospheric footprints of the plasmapause identified by the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration satellite. These observations demonstrate that the steep density gradient is created at the typical location of the trough. However, the steep density gradient is not produced by the formation of an intense trough during the storm. The temporal evolution of the total electron content maps shows that the steep density gradient observed at dusk by DMSP is associated with the plasma density enhancement in the dayside and its corotation into the dusk sector. The severe plasma density enhancement in middle latitudes, in combination with the trough and presumably the plasma depletion in high latitudes by the neutral composition change, produces the steep density gradient in the subauroral region during the storm.

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Journal of Geophysical Research
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