Ultralow-frequency modulation of whistler-mode wave growth

Clare E. J. Watt, A. W. Degeling, R. Rankin, K. R. Murphy, I. J. Rae, H. J. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Measurements from ground-based magnetometers and riometers at auroral latitudes have demonstrated that energetic (2630-300keV) electron precipitation can be modulated in the presence of magnetic field oscillations at ultra-low frequencies. It has previously been proposed that an ultra-low frequency (ULF) wave would modulate field and plasma properties near the equatorial plane, thus modifying the growth rates of whistler-mode waves. In turn, the resulting whistler-mode waves would mediate the pitch-angle scattering of electrons resulting in ionospheric precipitation. In this paper, we investigate this hypothesis by quantifying the changes to the linear growth rate expected due to a slow change in the local magnetic field strength for parameters typical of the equatorial region around 6.6RE radial distance. To constrain our study, we determine the largest possible ULF wave amplitudes from measurements of the magnetic field at geosynchronous orbit. Using nearly ten years of observations from two satellites, we demonstrate that the variation in magnetic field strength due to oscillations at 2mHz does not exceed $10 there is little change in the whistler-mode growth rates even for the largest ULF wave amplitude. Only for large temperature anisotropies can whistler-mode growth rates be modulated sufficiently to account for the changes in electron precipitation measured by riometers at auroral latitudes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


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