We investigate possible impact of stratospheric sudden warmings (SSWs) on the thermosphere by using long-term data of the global average thermospheric total mass density derived from satellite orbital drag during 1967–2013. Residuals are analyzed between the data and empirical Global Average Mass Density Model (GAMDM) that takes into account density variability due to solar activity, season, geomagnetic activity, and long-term trend. A superposed epoch analysis of 37 SSW events reveals a density reduction of 3–7% at 250–575 km around the time of maximum polar vortex weakening. The relative density perturbation is found to be greater at higher altitudes. The temperature perturbation is estimated to be −7.0 K at 400 km. We show that the density reduction can arise from enhanced wave forcing from the lower atmosphere.
©2015. The Authors.
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© 2015 American Geophysical Union