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How do auroral and subauroral flow channels form, and how do they influence the neutral atmosphere?

William Edward Archer


William complete his graduate degrees at the University of Calgary in 2017 under the supervision of Dr. David Knudsen. The title of his doctoral thesis was “Birkeland current boundary flows”, a nighttime auroral phenomena resulting in fast and narrow ionospheric flow channels during geomagnetically quiet conditions. Since then he has been working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Saskatchewan under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Pierre St.-Maurice. While at the UofS William has continued his research on auroral and subauroral flow channels, and explored the incoherent scatter radar signature of toroidal ion velocity distributions. His primary expertise lie in in-situ ionospheric data analysis and the investigation of ionospheric electrodynamics.

Research objectives

  • To characterize the mid-latitude density trough, and how it varies in the presence of subauroral ion drifts.
  • To determine how Birkeland current boundary flows (BCBF) modify the neutral atmosphere.
  • To estimate the Hall current associated with BCBF from Swarm satellite measurements.

Read more in the research project sheet.


  • MacDonald, Elizabeth A., Eric Donovan, Yukitoshi Nishimura, Nathan A. Case, D. Megan Gillies, Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, William E. Archer et al. “New science in plain sight: Citizen scientists lead to the discovery of optical structure in the upper atmosphere.” Science advances 4, no. 3 (2018): eaaq0030.
  • Archer, William Edward, and D. J. Knudsen. “Distinguishing subauroral ion drifts from Birkeland current boundary flows.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 123, no. 1 (2018): 819-826.
  • Archer, William Edward, D. J. Knudsen, J. K. Burchill, B. Jackel, E. Donovan, M. Connors, and L. Juusola. “Birkeland current boundary flows.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 122, no. 4 (2017): 4617-4627.


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