Use of POES SEM-2 observations to examine radiation belt dynamics and energetic electron precipitation into the atmosphere
The coupling of the Van Allen radiation belts to the Earth’s atmosphere through precipitating particles is an area of intense scientific interest. Currently, there are significant uncertainties surrounding the precipitating characteristics of medium energy electrons (> 20 keV), and even more uncertainties for relativistic electrons. In this paper we examine roughly 10 years of measurements of trapped and precipitating electrons available from the Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES)/Space Environment Monitor (SEM-2), which has provided long-term global data in this energy range. We show that the POES SEM-2 detectors suffer from some contamination issues that complicate the understanding of the measurements, but that the observations provide insight into the precipitation of energetic electrons from the radiation belts, and may be developed into a useful climatology for medium energy electrons. Electron contamination also allows POES/SEM-2 to provide unintended observations of > 700 keV relativistic electrons. Finally, there is an energy-dependent time delay observed in the POES/SEM-2 observations, with the relativistic electron enhancement (electrons > 800 keV) delayed by approximately one week relative to the > 30 keV electron enhancement, probably due to the timescales of the acceleration processes. Observations of trapped relativistic electron fluxes near the geomagnetic equator by GOES show similar delays, indicating a “coherency” to the radiation belts at high and low orbits, and also a strong link between trapped and precipitating particle fluxes. Such large delays should have consequences for the timing of the atmospheric impact of geomagnetic storms.