The westward thermospheric jet-stream of the evening auroral oval

D. Rees, T. J. Fuller-Rowell, M. F. Smith, R. Gordon, T. L. Killeen, P. B. Hays, N. W. Spencer, L. Wharton, N. C. Maynard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most consistent and often dramatic interactions between the high latitude ionosphere and the thermosphere occurs in the vicinity of the auroral oval in the afternoon and evening period. Ionospheric ions, convected sunward by the influence of the magnetospheric electric field, create a sunward jet-stream in the thermosphere, where wind speeds of up to 1 km s-1 can occur. This jet-stream is nearly always present in the middle and upper thermosphere (above 200 km altitude), even during periods of very low geomagnetic activity. However, the magnitude of the winds in the jet-stream, as well as its location and range in latitude, each depend on geomagnetic activity. On two occasions, jet-streams of extreme magnitude have been studied using simultaneous ground-based and satellite observations, probing both the latitudinal structure and the local time dependence. The observations have then been evaluated with the aid of simulations using a global, three-dimensional, time-dependent model of thermospheric dynamics including the effects of magnetospheric convection and particle precipitation. The extreme events, where sunward winds of above 800 ms-1 are generated at relatively low geomagnetic latitudes (60-70°) require a greatly expanded auroral oval and large cross-polar cap electric field ( ~ 150 kV). These in turn are generated by a persistent strong Interplanetary Magnetic Field, with a large southward component. Global indices such as Kp are a relatively poor indicator of the magnitude and extent of the jet-stream winds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-456
Number of pages32
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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