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LWS TR&T Focus Teams:

Determine the Behavior of the Plasmasphere and its Influence on the Ionosphere and Magnetosphere

Team Chair: Pontius Brandt
Team Research Plan:
Next Team Meeting: TBD
Team-Maintained Web Site: TBD
Team Publications: TBD
Team Members:
Vania Jordanova
Jonathan Krall
John Lyon
Mark Moldwin

Target Description: An improved understanding and description of plasmasphere and plasmapause behavior is required for significant cross-disciplinary advances across the entire coupled ionosphere-thermosphere-magnetosphere-heliosphere system.  In particular, there is a timely community need to advance our ability to model coupled system responses and to predict plasmaspheric plasma distribution and motion both along and across the magnetic field as well as the plasma-wave environment.  Coupled system effects of interest include subsonic and supersonic multi-species ion upflow events, their corresponding ionospheric electron density structures and enhanced radiation-belt particle losses, and particle-particle and wave-particle interactions leading to plasma heating and photoelectron transport.   Observations of plasmaspheric behavior are available under a wide variety of conditions from various NASA missions, especially recently from IMAGE, and significant data also exists from ground-based instruments and integrated line-of-sight total electron content observations from GPS and other radio wave techniques.  Models exist that simulate field-aligned multi-species plasma flows and energetics, as well as global plasmaspheric density and temperature, but many uncertainties remain.

Goals and Measures of Success: The goal of this FST is to produce improved descriptions of the plasmasphere and plasmapause and their dynamic variability.  The primary measure of team success will be the ability to obtain agreement between observations and models of daily, seasonal, solar-cycle, and storm-time variability of plasmaspheric density, temperature, and composition, plasmapause location, and plasma-wave density.  Other measures of success will be quantification of the influences of the plasmasphere on ionospheric electron density, total electron content, and on radiation-belt particle loss.

Types of investigations:

  • Analyses of in-situ and remotely sensed plasmaspheric electron densities to establish a three-dimensional, time-dependent picture of the behavior of the plasmasphere and plasmapause;
  • First-principles modeling of plasmaspheric density, composition, and temperature that include particle filling and depletion processes and electrodynamic coupling with the ionosphere;
  • Observational and modeling studies of plasma convection, plasmapause layer dynamics, and plasmaspheric plume formation and transport;
  • Theoretical studies of interactions among cold plasma, photoelectrons, radiation-belt particles, and plasma waves relevant to plasmaspheric heating and pitch-angle scattering.

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