Araki's model of geomagnetic sudden commencements (SCs) establishes that the ground magnetic signatures globally observed after the onset produced by an increased solar wind dynamic pressure impacting on the Earth's magnetosphere are caused by the setting up of a system of electric currents in the coupled magnetosphere-ionosphere. This current system consists of a particular evolving set of magnetopause currents closing in the ionosphere through geomagnetic field-aligned currents (FACs) and their induced counterpart. The present paper confirms the starting assumptions of the referred model by use of spherical elementary current systems (SECS), namely, the existence of FACs reversing polarity during the first couple of minutes of the SC. It is the first time that SECS have been applied to the study of SCs. The method has been fed with data from more than 100 stations of the global network of geomagnetic observatories and variometer sites in the northern hemisphere so as to provide a reliable pattern of the equivalent current system flowing at ionospheric heights on the occasion of the SCs associated with the 2013 and 2015 St. Patrick's Day storms. The combined analysis of solar wind data and the synoptic view of the SC current patterns provided by SECS allows it to explain some of the differences observed between both events.