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A theory of ionospheric response to upward-propagating tides: electrodynamic effects and tidal mixing effects

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number9
Volume118
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)5891-5905
Publication statusPublished
Early online date10/09/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The atmospheric tide at ionospheric heights is composed of those locally generated and those propagated from below. The role of the latter in producing the variability of the daytime ionosphere is examined using the National Center for Atmospheric Research Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model. The impact of upward-propagating tides is evaluated by running simulations with and without tidal forcing at the lower boundary (approximately 96 km), which imitates the effect of tides from below. When migrating diurnal and semidiurnal tides at the lower boundary is switched on, the intensity of E region currents and the upward velocity of the equatorial F region vertical plasma drift rapidly increase. The low-latitude ionospheric total electron content (TEC) first increases, then gradually decreases to below the initial level. The initial increase in the low-latitude TEC is caused by an enhanced equatorial plasma fountain while the subsequent decrease is due to changes in the neutral composition, which are characterized by a global-scale reduction in the mass mixing ratio of atomic oxygen O1. The results of further numerical experiments indicate that the mean meridional circulation induced by dissipating tides in the lower thermosphere is mainly responsible for the O1 reduction; it acts like an additional turbulent eddy and produces a “mixing effect” that enhances net downward transport and loss of O1. It is stressed that both electrodynamic effects and mixing effects of upward-propagating tides can be important in producing the variability of ionospheric plasma density. Since the two mechanisms act in different ways on different time scales, the response of the actual ionosphere to highly variable upward-propagating tides is expected to be complex.

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©2013. American Geophysical Union