A survey of the polar cap density based on Cluster EFW probe measurements: Solar wind and solar irradiation dependence
Publication date: 31 Jan 2012
Authors: Haaland, S. et al.
Journal: J. Geophys. Res.
Copyright: American Geophysical UnionThe plasma density above the Earth's polar caps provide crucial information about the state of the magnetosphere. This region of space is known for its tenuous plasma and extremely low plasma densities, thus making traditional measurements with particle and plasma instruments extremely difficult. A new method based on spacecraft potential measurements from the electric field instrument onboard the Cluster satellites has shown that more reliable density measurements can be obtained. In this paper, we utilize this method and present a survey of the polar cap densities and the response to changes in the solar irradiation, solar wind parameters as well as processes internal to the magnetosphere. Our observations spans a time interval of almost 10 years, thus covering almost a full solar cycle. The observations seem to confirm that solar irradiance, and thus ionization through UV absorption in the atmosphere is the most important mechanism controlling the polar cap cold plasma density. We also find positive correlations between polar cap density and solar wind density and solar wind dynamic pressure, as well as geomagnetic activity levels.