In this paper we compare time-dependent global ionospheric field-aligned current (FAC) patterns on 10-min time scales inferred from the Active Magnetosphere and Polar Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) with the high-resolution Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry (LFM) global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) model. The improved LFM model yields temporally varying FAC patterns with a fine structure on the sub–100 km scale. The goal of the study is to explore the responses of observed and simulated FAC patterns and underlying magnetic perturbations to a succession of rapid transitions in the solar wind and Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) parameters. To drive the simulations we use the upstream Wind and THEMIS spacecraft measurements recorded on August 3, 2010. For the time interval of interest (~40 mins following the impact of an interplanetary shock), the IMF is characterized by a B Z rotation from southward to northward direction under negative B Y conditions. Through this case study analysis, it is found that the simulations have generally reproduced the salient characteristics of both the morphology and dynamics of the AMPERE FAC patterns. Due to the high resolution of the global model, the peak current densities are found to significantly (by a factor of 2–4) exceed those obtained from AMPERE. As a further quantitative analysis, the low-altitude magnetic perturbations measured by Iridium spacecraft and used to derive the AMPERE 2-D FAC patterns are also compared with the magnetic field variations calculated from the simulations. It is found that outside of localized regions of peak current densities, which mainly occur on the dayside and can fall between the Iridium tracks, the simulated magnetic perturbations closely follow the Iridium measurements. This demonstrates, in particular, that there is no systematic bias in the simulations to overestimate the magnetic perturbations and corresponding FAC densities. Overall, our results demonstrate that, given sufficient resolution, contemporary global MHD models are capable of reproducing observed features of global ionospheric FAC distributions. This, in particular, suggests the feasibility of potential efforts to assimilate AMPERE observations in global magnetospheric models.