Effect of neutral winds on the creation of non-specular meteor trail echoes

Freddy Galindo, Julio Urbina, Lars Dyrud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Non-specular meteor trail echoes are radar reflections from plasma instabilities that are caused by field-aligned irregularities. Meteor simulations are examined to show that these plasma instabilities, and thus the associated meteor trail echo, strongly depend on the meteoroid properties and the characteristics of the atmosphere in which the meteoroid is embedded. The effects of neutral winds, as a function of altitude, are analyzed to understand how their amplitude variability impacts the temporal-space signatures of non-specular meteor trail echoes present in very high-frequency (VHF) radar observations. It is found that amplitudes of the total horizontal neutral wind smaller than 0.6g-1 do not provide the right physical conditions to enable the genesis of non-specular meteor echoes. It is also found that a 0.0316g meteoroid traveling at 35gkms-1 can be seen as a meteor trail echo if the amplitudes of horizontal neutral winds are stronger than 15g-1. In contrast, a 0.316g meteoroid, traveling at the same speed, requires horizontal winds stronger than 1g-1 to be visible as a meteor trail echo. The neutral velocity threshold illustrates how simulations show that no trail echo is created below a critical wind value. This critical wind value is not mapped directly to radar observations, but it is used to shed light on the physics of meteor trails and improve their modeling. The meteor simulations also indicate that time delays on the order of hundreds of milliseconds or longer, between head echoes and non-specular echoes, which are present in VHF backscatter radar maps, can be a consequence of very dense plasma trails being affected by weak horizontal neutral winds that are smaller than 1g-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-719
Number of pages11
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 23 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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