Ion-neutral coupling in the geomagnetically disturbed mid-latitude ionosphere as observed by SuperDARN HF radars and NATION Fabry-Perot Interferometers
Joshi, Pratik Prasad
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The earth's ionosphere-thermosphere region is a coupled environment which is governed by interactions between the overlapping neutral constituents and ionospheric plasma. The mid-latitude thermosphere-ionosphere system is very complex owing to its sensitivity to both the polar and equatorial processes. The mid-latitudes is also a relatively unexplored and less understood region primarily due to the paucity of observing instruments that have traditionally been available. However, the past 9 years of mid-latitude expansion of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) has provided new access to continuous large-scale observations of the sub-auroral ionosphere. On the other hand, the past 3 years of mid-latitude expansion of the North American Thermosphere Ionosphere Observation Network (NATION) Fabry-Perot interferometer array, has created a critical resource for measuring the thermospheric neutral winds. The overlap of these two observing networks in the mid-east North American sector has resulted in a strong ground-based large-scale platform for co-located study of mid-latitude thermosphere-ionosphere dynamics for the first time. The coupling between ions and neutrals is a very important process for controlling the thermospheric dynamics. Ion-neutral coupling at high latitudes has been studied in many previous papers, but there have been very few studies focused on the mid-latitude region. Hence, in this work we have studied the ion-neutral coupling mechanisms and timescales at mid-latitudes during disturbed geomagnetic conditions by using the co-located observations from the SuperDARN-NATION array. The study has focused on the main phase as well as the late recovery phase of a geomagnetic storm which occurred on October 2-3, 2013. Ion drag is known to drive the neutral circulation during the main phase of storm at auroral latitudes, while the neutral wind disturbance dynamo mechanism is known to generate ionospheric electric fields and currents during the recovery phase. By using the methods of ion-neutral momentum exchange theory and time lagged correlation analysis, we analyzed the timescales at which the ion-neutral coupling operates. The ions are observed to drive the neutral winds on a timescale of ~ 84 minutes in the storm main phase which is significantly faster than expected from the driving due to local ion-drag alone (~ 124 minutes). This suggests that along with ion-drag, other local and non-local storm-time influences like Joule heating are also playing an important part in driving the neutral winds. On the other hand, in the late recovery phase, the neutral winds are found to be strongly coupled with the ions and maintain the ion convection without any significant time delay which is consistent with effect of the 'disturbance dynamo' or 'neutral-flywheel' persisting well into the late recovery phase. The timescales and underlying physics understood through this work serve as an important contribution to our knowledge of ion-neutral coupling processes at the middle latitudes. Looking forward, the expansion of co-located SuperDARN-NATION coverage at mid-latitudes, and developments in the tools of large-scale visualization through FPI wind field mapping and SuperDARN convection maps, has created a very strong basis for using the results and analysis tools developed in this work for large-scale ion-neutral coupling characterization in future.
- Masters Theses