High-latitude ionospheric drivers and their effects on wind patterns in the thermosphere

L. R. Liuzzo, A. J. Ridley, N. J. Perlongo, E. J. Mitchell, M. Conde, D. L. Hampton, W. A. Bristow, M. J. Nicolls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Winds in the thermosphere are highly important for transporting mass, momentum, and energy over the globe. In the high-latitude region, observations show that ion and neutral motions are strongly coupled when the aurora is present but the coupling is less evident when there is no aurora. In this study, we investigate the ability of the Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model (GITM) to simulate the mesoscale wind structure over Alaska during a substorm. Thirteen distinct numerical simulations of a substorm event that occurred between 02:00 and 17:00 Universal Time on 24 November 2012 have been performed. Distinct drivers considered include the Weimer and SuperDARN potential patterns and the OVATION Prime and OVATION-SME auroral models. The effects of the boundary between the neutral wind dynamo calculation and the high-latitude imposed electric potential were also considered. Neutral wind velocities and thermospheric temperatures measured by the Scanning Doppler Imager instruments located at three locations in Alaska were compared to GITM simulation results, and electron densities within GITM were compared to data from the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar. It was found that the different drivers used between multiple simulations lead to various amounts of momentum coupling within the simulation, affecting the accuracy of the modeled neutral and ion flow patterns and the strength of electron precipitation at high latitudes. This affirms that better observations of auroral precipitation and electric fields are required to accurately understand and consistently reproduce the mesoscale neutral wind flow patterns and temperature structure in the high-latitude thermosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-735
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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