The magnetosphere-ionosphere system response to extreme solar wind driving conditions depends on both the driving conditions and ionospheric conductivity. Since extreme driving conditions are rare, there are few opportunities to control for one parameter or another. The 17 March 2013 and 17 March 2015 geomagnetic storms driven by coronal mass ejections (CME) provide one such opportunity. The two events occur during the same solar illumination conditions; in particular, both occur near equinox on the same day of the year leading to similar ionospheric conductivity profiles. Moreover, both CMEs arrive at the same time of day leading to similar observing conditions (i.e., ground stations at similar magnetic local time in both events). We examine the ground magnetic response to each CME at a range of latitudes and in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, remote sensing several current systems. There are dramatic differences between the intensity, onset time and occurrence, duration, and spatial structure of the current systems in each case. For example, differing solar wind driving conditions lead to interhemispheric asymmetries in the high-latitude ground magnetic response during the 2015 storm; these asymmetries are not present in the 2013 storm.
Xu, Z., Hartinger, M. D., Clauer, R. C., Peek, T., & Behlke, R. (2017). A comparison of the ground magnetic responses during the 2013 and 2015 St. Patrick's Day geomagnetic storms. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 122, 4023–4036. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JA023338