High correlations between temperature and nitric oxide in the thermosphere
Obtaining accurate predictions of the neutral density in the thermosphere has been a long-standing problem. During geomagnetic storms the auroral heating in the polar ionospheres quickly raises the temperature of the thermosphere, resulting in higher neutral densities that exert a greater drag force on objects in low Earth orbit. Rapid increases and decreases in the temperature and density may occur within a couple days. A key parameter in the thermosphere is the total amount of nitric oxide (NO). The production of NO is accelerated by the auroral heating, and since NO is an efficient radiator of thermal energy, higher concentrations of this molecule accelerate the rate at which the thermosphere cools. This paper describes an improved technique that calculates changes in the global temperature of the thermosphere. Starting from an empirical model of the Poynting flux into the ionosphere, a set of differential equations derives the minimum, global value of the exospheric temperature, which can be used in a neutral density model to calculate the global values. The relative variations in NO content are used to obtain more accurate cooling rates. Comparisons with the global rate of NO emissions that are measured with the Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry instrument show that there is very good agreement with the predicted values. The NO emissions correlate highly with the total auroral heating that has been integrated over time. We also show that the NO emissions are highly correlated with thermospheric temperature, as well as indices of solar extreme ultraviolet radiation.