Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 545–592 | Cite as

Magnetic Pulsations: Their Sources and Relation to Solar Wind and Geomagnetic Activity

  • Robert L. McPherron


Ultra low frequency (ULF) waves incident on the Earth are produced by processes in the magnetosphere and solar wind. These processes produce a wide variety of ULF hydromagnetic wave types that are classified on the ground as either Pi or Pc pulsations (irregular or continuous). Waves of different frequencies and polarizations originate in different regions of the magnetosphere. The location of the projections of these regions onto the Earth depends on the solar wind dynamic pressure and magnetic field. The occurrence of various waves also depends on conditions in the solar wind and in the magnetosphere. Changes in orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field or an increase in solar wind velocity can have dramatic effects on the type of waves seen at a particular location on the Earth. Similarly, the occurrence of a magnetospheric substorm or magnetic storm will affect which waves are seen. The magnetosphere is a resonant cavity and waveguide for waves that either originate within or propagate through the system. These cavities respond to broadband sources by resonating at discrete frequencies. These cavity modes couple to field line resonances that drive currents in the ionosphere. These currents reradiate the energy as electromagnetic waves that propagate to the ground. Because these ionospheric currents are localized in latitude there are very rapid variations in wave phase at the Earth’s surface. Thus it is almost never correct to assume that plane ULF waves are incident on the Earth from outer space. The properties of ULF waves seen at the ground contain information about the processes that generate them and the regions through which they have propagated. The properties also depend on the conductivity of the Earth underneath the observer. Information about the state of the solar wind and the magnetosphere distributed by the NOAA Space Disturbance Forecast Center can be used to help predict when certain types and frequencies of waves will be observed. The study of ULF waves is a very active field of space research and much has yet to be learned about the processes that generate these waves.


cavity modes file line resonances MHD magnetic storm magnetosphere pulsations solar wind substorm 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geophysics and Planetary PhysicsUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesU.S.A.

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