Relative Importance of Horizontal and Vertical Transports to the Formation of Ionospheric Storm-enhanced Density and Polar Tongue of Ionization

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

There are still uncertainties regarding the formation mechanisms for storm-enhanced density (SED) in the high and subauroral latitude ionosphere. In this work, we deploy the Thermosphere Ionosphere Electrodynamic General Circulation Model (TIEGCM) and GPS total electron content (TEC) observations to identify the principle mechanisms for SED and the tongue of ionization (TOI) through term-by-term analysis of the ion continuity equation, and also identify the advantages and deficiencies of the TIEGCM in capturing high- and subauroral latitude ionospheric fine structures for the two geomagnetic storm events occurring on 17 March 2013 and 2015.

GPS TEC image
Polar view of absolute GPS TEC difference between storm time (2000 UT 17 March 2013) and quiet time (2000 UT 16 March 2013).

Our results show that, in the topside ionosphere, upward E×B ion drifts are most important in SED formation and are offset by antisunward neutral winds and downward ambipolar diffusion effects. In the bottomside F-region ionosphere, neutral winds play a major role in generating SEDs. SED signature in TEC is mainly caused by upward E×B ion drifts that lift the ionosphere to higher altitudes where chemical recombination is slower. Horizontal E×B ion drifts play an essential role in transporting plasma from the dayside convection throat region to the polar cap to form TOIs. Inconsistencies between model results and GPS TEC data were found: (1) GPS relative TEC difference between storm-time and quiet-time has "holes" in the dayside ion convection entrance region, which do not appear in the model results; (2) The model tends to overestimate electron density enhancements in the polar region. Possible causes for these inconsistencies are discussed in this article.

Submitted to JGR-space Physics, August 2016.