Location of intense electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) wave events relative to the plasmapause: Van Allen Probes observations

S. S. Tetrick, M. J. Engebretson, J. L. Posch, C. N. Olson, C. W. Smith, R. E. Denton, S. A. Thaller, J. R. Wygant, G. D. Reeves, E. A. Macdonald, J. F. Fennell

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44 Scopus citations


We have studied the spatial location relative to the plasmapause (PP) of the most intense electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves observed on Van Allen Probes A and B during their first full precession in local time. Most of these waves occurred over an L range of from −1 to +2 RE relative to the PP. Very few events occurred only within 0.1 RE of the PP, and events with a width in L of < 0.2 RE occurred both inside and outside the PP. Wave occurrence was always associated with high densities of ring current ions; plasma density gradients or enhancements were associated with some events but were not dominant factors in determining the sites of wave generation. Storm main and recovery phase events in the dusk sector were often inside the PP, and dayside events during quiet times and compressions of the magnetosphere were more evenly distributed both inside and outside the PP. Superposed epoch analyses of the dependence of wave onset on solar wind dynamic pressure (Psw), the SME (SuperMAG auroral electrojet) index, and the SYM-H index showed that substorm injections and solar wind compressions were temporally closely associated with EMIC wave onset but to an extent that varied with frequency band, magnetic local time, and storm phase, and location relative to the PP. The fact that increases in SME and Psw were less strongly correlated with events at the PP than with other events might suggest that the occurrence of those events was affected by the density gradient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4064-4088
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

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©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • EMIC waves
  • magnetosphere
  • plasmapause


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