We are used to reading about Birkeland Currents at Thunderbolts and the various plasma based web sites but they are now part of mainstream – go to http://phys.org/print331816447.html
When the solar wind strikes the Earth's magnetic field a powerful electric connection occurs with Earth's field, generating millions of amperes of current which drives the aurora. These are known as birkeland currents and they connect the ionosphere to the magnetosphere and channel solar energy into the upper atmosphere. Scientists are now studying birkeland currents more closely. A paper on the subject is in Geophysical Research Letters 41.