The Cowling channel mechanism describes the creation of a secondary polarization electric field at sharp conductance boundaries in the ionosphere due to excess charges for the case in which the release of these charges to the magnetosphere is fully or partially impeded. The secondary currents generated by the polarization electric field effectively modify the effective ionospheric conductivity inside the Cowling channel. While the Cowling mechanism is generally accepted for the equatorial electrojet, there is a long-standing discussion about the importance of this mechanism and its efficiency in the auroral electrojet. We present a statistical investigation that enables us to identify the most probable geospace conditions and MLT locations for a high Cowling efficiency. This investigation is based on more than 1600 meridional profiles of data from the Magnetometers-Ionospheric Radars-All-sky Cameras Large Experiment (MIRACLE) network in Scandinavia, in particular, ground magnetic field data from the International Monitor for Auroral Geomagnetic Effects (IMAGE) magnetometer network and electric field data from the Scandinavian Twin Auroral Radar Experiment (STARE) radar, supported with pointwise ionospheric conductance measurements from the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) radar. We analyze the data in the framework of a 3-D ionospheric model, but our data set is filtered so that only electrojet-type situations are included so that the gradients of all measured quantities in longitudinal direction can be neglected. The analysis results in a steep peak of high Cowling channel efficiency probability in the early morning sector (0245-0645 MLT), with the largest probability around 0500 MLT and for medium and high geomagnetic activity. In agreement with an earlier single-event study by Amm and Fujii (2008), this indicates that the Cowling mechanism may be most effective in the early morning part of the central substorm bulge. Further, our analysis results in an almost monotonic increase of the probability of high Cowling channel efficiency with increasing geomagnetic activity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Space and Planetary Science