Comparison of the open-closed separatrix in a global magnetospheric simulation with observations: the role of the ring current

I. J. Rae, K. Kabin, J. Y. Lu, R. Rankin, S. E. Milan, F. R. Fenrich, Clare E. J. Watt, J.-C. Zhang, A. J. Ridley, T. I. Gombosi, C. R. Clauer, G. Tóth, D. L. DeZeeuw

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The development of global magnetospheric models, such as Space Weather Modeling Framework (SWMF), which can accurately reproduce and track space weather processes has high practical utility. We present an interval on 5 June 1998, where the location of the polar cap boundary, or open-closed field line boundary (OCB), can be determined in the ionosphere using a combination of instruments during a period encompassing a sharp northward to southward interplanetary field turning. We present both point- and time-varying comparisons of the observed and simulated boundaries in the ionosphere and find that when using solely the coupled ideal magnetohydrodynamic magnetosphere-ionosphere model, the rate of change of the OCB to a southward turning of the interplanetary field is significantly faster than that computed from the observational data. However, when the inner magnetospheric module is incorporated, the modeling framework both qualitatively, and often quantitatively, reproduces many elements of the studied interval prior to an observed substorm onset. This result demonstrates that the physics of the inner magnetosphere is critical in shaping the boundary between open and closed field lines during periods of southward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) and provides significant insight into the 3-D time-dependent behavior of the Earth's magnetosphere in response to a northward-southward IMF turning. We assert that during periods that do not include the tens of minutes surrounding substorm expansion phase onset, the coupled SWMF model may provide a valuable and reliable tool for estimating both the OCB and magnetic field topology over a wide range of latitudes and local times.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


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