Open Access

Substorm onset dynamics in the magnetotail as derived from joint TC-1 and Cluster data analysis

Earth, Planets and Space200960:BF03353125

Received: 9 September 2007

Accepted: 14 February 2009

Published: 4 July 2009


This study investigates two substorm onset events with favorable constellations of spacecraft, TC-1 and Cluster, separated by several Earth radii. The substorms have been identified in both auroral regions. One is believed to be triggered by a northward turning of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), while the other occurs under generally southward IMF. For both events, Cluster was located tailward of TC-1, but observed the dipolarization at earlier time for one event while at later time for the other. The timing difference of dipolarization at different positions could be explained by the earthward or tailward propagation of the field disturbances in the radial direction. The earthward dipolarization front was found in one case to bounce back and forth at TC-1. The earthward propagation was accompanied by a fast earthward plasma flow for the 21 September 2005 event. The event analysis suggests that substorms can be quite different from case to case due to differences in the solar wind condition and magnetotail configuration.

Key words

Substorm onset magnetotail Cluster Double Star