Ionospheric signatures of internal reconnection for northward interplanetary magnetic field: Observation of ∼reciprocal cells" and magnetosheath ion precipitation

Masakazu Watanabe, George J. Sofko, Dieter A. André, J. Michael Ruohoniemi, Marc R. Hairston, Konstantin Kabin

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Magnetic reconnection that involves overdraped lobe field lines is called internal reconnection since it occurs inside the magnetopause. When the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is due northward and the Earth's dipole is tilted significantly, internal reconnection occurs in the winter hemisphere, not only between a summer lobe field line and a winter lobe field line but also between a summer lobe field line and a closed field line. The latter internal reconnection drives "reciprocal cells" in the winter ionosphere that circulate exclusively in the closed field line region. The reciprocal cells are intimately related to the lobe cells in the summer ionosphere in that in the steady state, the reconnection voltage associated with merging of IMF and open field lines is equal to the sum of the lobe cell potential and the reciprocal cell potential. In this paper we present observations of convection patterns consistent with those expected for reciprocal cells, using ionospheric radar and low-altitude satellite data. We also show the concurrence of lobe cells and reciprocal cells. The observations of reciprocal cells provide support for the internal reconnection between a summer lobe field line and a closed field line. In addition, we show that equatorward of the polar cap boundary, magnetosheath-like ions are drifting from noon toward the flankside in both hemispheres. We suggest that these ions are of magnetosheath origin and that they entered the closed region of the magnetosphere through the rotational discontinuity associated with internal reconnection. These magnetosheath-like ion observations strongly support the occurrence of internal reconnection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA06201
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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