Topside Equatorial Ionospheric Density, Temperature, and Composition under Equinox, Low Solar Flux Conditions


Hysell, D. L., Milla, M. A., Rodrigues, F. S., Varney, R. H., & Huba, J. D. (2015). Topside equatorial ionospheric density, temperature, and composition under equinox, low solar flux conditions. Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, 120(5), 3899-3912. doi:10.1002/2015JA021168


We present observations of the topside ionosphere made at the Jicamarca Radio Observatory in March and September 2013, made using a full-profile analysis approach. Recent updates to the methodology employed at Jicamarca are also described. Measurements of plasma number density, electron and ion temperatures, and hydrogen and helium ion fractions up to 1500 km altitude are presented for 3 days in March and September. The main features of the observations include a sawtooth-like diurnal variation in ht, the transition height where the O+ ion fraction falls to 50%, the appearance of weak He+ layers just below ht, and a dramatic increase in plasma temperature at dawn followed by a sharp temperature depression around local noon. These features are consistent from day to day and between March and September. Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation data from the Communication Navigation Outage Forecast System satellite are used to help validate the March Jicamarca data. The SAMI2-PE model was able to recover many of the features of the topside observations, including the morphology of the plasma density profiles and the light-ion composition. The model, forced using convection speeds and meridional thermospheric winds based on climatological averages, did not reproduce the extreme temperature changes in the topside between sunrise and noon. Some possible causes of the discrepancies are discussed.

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