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What is the Relationship between the Solar Wind and Storms/Substorms?The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) carried past the Earth by the solar wind has long been known to be the principal quantity that controls geomagnetic storms and substorms. Intervals of strong southward IMF with durations of at least a significant fraction of a day produce storms, while more typical, shorter intervals of less-intense southward fields produce substorms. The strong, long-duration southward fields are generally associated with coronal mass ejections and magnetic clouds or else they are produced by interplanetary dynamics initiated by fast solar wind flows that compress preexisting southward fields. Smaller, short-duration southward fields that occur on most days are related to long period waves, turbulence, or random variations in the IMF. Southward IMF enhances dayside reconnection between the IMF and the Earth's dipole with the reconnected field lines supplementing open field lines of the geomagnetic tail and producing an expanded polar cap and increased tail energy. Although the frequent storage of solar wind energy and its release during substorms is the most common mode of solar wind/magnetosphere interaction, under certain circumstances, steady southward IMF seems to produce intervals of relatively steady magnetosphere convection without substorms. During these latter times, the inner magnetosphere remains in a stressed tail-like state while the more distant magnetotail has larger northward field and more dipolar-like field lines. Recent evidence suggests that enhanced magnetosphere particle densities associated with enhanced solar wind densities allow more particles to be accelerated for the ring current, thus creating larger storms.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Fairfield, D. H. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Burlaga, L. F. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Solar Physics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.