Journal cover Journal topic
Annales Geophysicae An open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Ann. Geophys., 19, 327-339, 2001
© Author(s) 2001. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
31 Mar 2001
A case study of HF radar spectra and 630.0 nm auroral emission in the pre-midnight sector
M. Lester1, S. E. Milan1, V. Besser2, and R. Smith2 1Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom
2Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.A.
Correspondence to: M. Lester (
Abstract. A comparison of HF radar backscatter observed by the CUTLASS Finland radar, meridian scanning photometer data from Longyearbyen, magnetic field variations from IMAGE stations, and particle precipitation measured by the DMSP F12 spacecraft is presented. The interval under discussion occurred in the pre-midnight local time sector, during a period of weakly northward interplanetary magnetic field. A region of HF backscatter, typically 8 degrees wide, occurred in the field of view of the CUTLASS Finland radar. A well defined gradient in the spectral width parameter was present, with mainly low (< 200 m s - 1 ) spectral widths in the lower latitude part of the scatter and predominantly large (> 200 ms - 1 ) spectral widths in the higher latitude part. The relationship between the spectral width and the red line (630.0 nm) emission measured by the meridian scanning photometer is considered. The poleward border of the red line emission, which has, in the past, been proposed as being representative of the polar cap boundary, was co-located to within 1° of magnetic latitude with the gradient in spectral width for part of the interval. Statistically, large spectral widths occurred poleward of the red line emission, while small spectral widths occurred within or equatorward of the red line emission. Near simultaneous DMSP particle observations in the 20 eV to 20 keV range indicate that the poleward border of the red line emission and the gradient in spectral width occurred at the same latitude as the transition from auroral oval to polar rain particle energies. We conclude that the large spectral widths were not caused by particle precipitation associated with the auroral oval. There were two periods of special interest when the relationship between the red line and the spectral width broke down. The first of these happened during enhanced red line and green line (557.7 nm) emission, with a drop out of the radar scatter and an enhanced, narrow westward electrojet. We conclude that this event was a magnetospheric substorm occurring at much higher than usual latitudes. The second period of special interest happened when equatorward moving bands of large spectral width occurred within the region of scatter. Up to 4 of these bands were present during an interval of 100 minutes. Associated with these narrow bands of large spectral width were narrow channels of enhanced westward ion velocities. We conclude that these equatorward moving bands of large spectral width may be related to reconnection processes in the tail. The observations demonstrate that the tail continues to be active even under low solar wind energy input conditions. Furthermore, we conclude that the gradient in the spectral width may be used as a proxy for the polar cap boundary, but only with extreme caution.

Key words. Ionosphere (ionosphere-magnetosphere inter-actions; polar ionosphere) – Magnetospheric physics (storms and substorms)

Citation: Lester, M., Milan, S. E., Besser, V., and Smith, R.: A case study of HF radar spectra and 630.0 nm auroral emission in the pre-midnight sector, Ann. Geophys., 19, 327-339, doi:10.5194/angeo-19-327-2001, 2001.
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