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The Dst index is produced using low-latitude ground magnetic field measurements and frequently is used as an estimate of the energy density of the ring current carried mainly by energetic (∼10-200 keV) ions relatively close to the Earth. However, other magnetospheric current systems can cause field perturbations at the Earth's surface: for example, dayside magnetopause currents are known to contribute to the Dst index. It has also been suggested that the nightside tail current sheet can significantly affect the Dst index during high magnetic activity periods when the currents are intense and flow relatively close to the Earth. In this study, several disturbed periods are input into Tsyganenko magnetic field models. From the time series of the external and internal fields an artificial Dst index is computed using the same procedure followed in the actual Dst calculation. A tail region in the magnetosphere is explicitly defined and the T96 and T89 models are used to calculate the effect of current within this tail region on ground measurements and therefore on Dst. The results are then compared with the measured Dst to determine the tail current contribution to Dst. It is found that for a geomagnetic storm and a storm-time substorm with Dst of ~80 nT the tail current contribution is between 22 and 26 nT. The same analysis is also applied to several isolated non-storm-time substorms, yielding a nearly linear relationship between Dst and the tail current contribution. This contribution is approximately one quarter of Dst.




Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics