Space Science Reviews

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 93-111

First online:

The roles of direct input of energy from the solar wind and unloading of stored magnetotail energy in driving magnetospheric substorms

  • G. RostokerAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Institute of Earth and Planetary Physics, University of Alberta
  • , S. I. AkasofuAffiliated withGeophysical Institute, University of Alaska
  • , W. BaumjohannAffiliated withInstitut für Geophysik der Universität, Münster
  • , Y. KamideAffiliated withKyoto Sangyo UniversitySpace Environment Laboratory, NOAA
  • , R. L. McPherronAffiliated withInstitute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California (Los Angeles)

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This paper presents the consensus arrived at by the authors with respect to the contributions to the substorm expansive phase of direct energy input from the solar wind and from energy stored in the magnetotail which is released in a sometimes unpredictable manner. Two physical processes, neither of which can be ignored, are considered to be of importance in the dispensation of the energy input from the solar wind. One of these is the ‘driven process’ in which energy, supplied from the solar wind, is directly dissipated in the ionosphere with the only clearly definable delay being due to the inductance of the magnetosphere-ionosphere system. The other is the ‘loading-unloading process’ in which energy from the solar wind is first stored in the magnetotail and then is suddenly released to be deposited in the ionosphere as a consequence of external changes in the interplanetary medium or internal triggering processes. Although the driven process appears to be more dominant on a statistical basis in terms of solar wind-geomagnetic activity relationships, one or the other of the two above processes may dominate for any individual cases. Moreover, the two processes may operate simultaneously during a given phase of the substorm, e.g., the magnetotail may experience loading as the driven system increases in strength. Thus, in our approach, substorms are described in terms of physical processes which we infer to be operative in the magnetosphere and the terminology of the past (e.g., phases) is related to those inferred physical processes. The pattern of substorm development in response to changes in the interplanetary medium is presented for a canonical isolated substorm.