Near-Earth Magnetic Field Effects of Large-Scale Magnetospheric Currents

Hermann Lühr, Chao Xiong, Nils Olsen, Guan Le

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Magnetospheric currents play an important role in the electrodynamics of near-Earth space. This has been the topic of many space science studies. Here we focus on the magnetic fields they cause close to Earth. Their contribution to the geomagnetic field is the second largest after the core field. Significant progress in interpreting the magnetic fields from the different sources has been achieved thanks to magnetic satellite missions like Ørsted, CHAMP and now Swarm. Of particular interest for this article is a proper representation of the magnetospheric ring current effect. Uncertainties in modelling its effect still produce the largest residuals between observations and present-day geomagnetic field models. A lot of progress has been achieved so far, but there are still open issues like the characteristics of the partial ring current. Other currents discussed are those flowing in the magnetospheric tail. Also their magnetic contribution at LEO orbits is non-negligible. Treating them as an independent source is a more recent development, which has cured some of the problems in geomagnetic field modelling. Unfortunately there is no index available for characterising the tail current intensity. Here we propose an approach that may help to properly quantify the magnetic contribution from the tail current for geomagnetic field modelling. Some open questions that require further investigation are mentioned at the end.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Pages (from-to)521–545
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Geomagnetic field
  • Magnetospheric currents
  • Magnetospheric ring current
  • Magnetospheric tail currents
  • Geomagnetic field modelling


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