Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Bela G. Fejer


Bela G. Fejer


Farrell Edwards


Mark Riffe


Charles Swenson


Barbara Phillips


Robert Schunk


Ionospheric disturbance electric fields of magnetospheric origin play an important role in determining the global morphology and dynamics of the ionosphere of the Earth. In this work, we present a number of numerical simulations of the transient electric fields in the middle and inner magnetosphere and the ionosphere equatorward of the auroral zone caused by idealized changes in the magnetospheric driving parameters. For these studies, we use the Rice Convection Model (RCM), a large computer code of the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling which consistently computes the electric fields, currents, and plasma densities in the magnetosphere and the electric field and currents in the ionosphere in the quasi-static slow-flow approximation. We made substantial upgrades to the code, which include a module computing realistic solar EDY-produced ionospheric conductances and a new potential solver. Our upgraded version of the RCM also includes a time-varying magnetospheric magnetic field and a self-consistently estimated auroral zone. We first discuss numerical problems encountered in modeling electrodynamics of convection with a time-varying magnetic field, realistic ionospheric conductances, and a self-consistent auroral zone, and our solutions to those difficulties. We then present a number of "computer experiments" with the new version of the RCM with idealized changes in the magnetospheric parameters such as sudden changes in the cross polar cap potential drop, magnetic field reconfiguration corresponding to the overall changes in the high-latitude convection, as well as rotations of the electric field on the polar cap boundary. Prompt penetration ionospheric electric fields simulated with the upgraded RCM are shown to be consistent with the previous simulations. The new simulations and their results are discussed in the context of (1) possible contribution to the variability of the ionospheric electric fields, and (2) role of time-varying magnetic field on the characteristic lifetimes of prompt penetration electric fields at subauroral, middle, and low latitudes.



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