Tuesday 8 December 2015

Effects of solar wind high-speed streams on the high-latitude ionosphere: Superposed epoch study

Our study of the effects of solar wind high-speed streams on the high-latitude ionosphere, based on data from the SGO ionosonde during the years 2006–2008, has now been accepted for publication. An early-access version is available here, and the reference is:
Grandin, M., A. T. Aikio, A. Kozlovsky, T. Ulich and T. Raita (2015), Effects of solar wind high-speed streams on the high-latitude ionosphere: Superposed epoch study, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics120, doi:10.1002/2015JA021785.

Here is the abstract:

Solar wind high-speed streams (HSSs) are the most important source of geomagnetic disturbances during the declining phase of the solar cycle. Their ionospheric response, especially at high latitudes, is not fully understood yet. We carried out a phase-locked superposed epoch analysis to study the effects of HSSs on the high-latitude ionospheric F region, using data from the Sodankylä ionosonde (L = 5.25) during 2006–2008. We found that the F layer critical frequency foF2 decreases between 12 and 23 magnetic local time (MLT) in summer and around equinoxes for several days. Our interpretation, supported by numerical estimations, is that increased electric fields in the evening sector of the auroral and subauroral regions create ion-neutral frictional heating. Frictional heating will increase the loss rate of O+ due to two reasons. The first one is neutral heating producing thermal expansion of the atmosphere and enhancing N2 and O2 contents at the F region peak. The second one is ion heating which may occur under strong enough electric fields (about 50–60 mV/m), leading to enhancement of the reaction coefficients. An increase in foF2 is observed in two different MLT sectors. First, a short-lived foF2 increase is visible during all seasons near noon on the first day after the arrival of the HSS, possibly triggered by the compressed solar wind plasma pressure pulse, which may produce particle precipitation from the dayside central plasma sheet. Second, foF2 is enhanced for several days in the morning sector during equinoxes and in winter. We suggest that this is caused by the low-energy tail of particle precipitation.

Variations of foF2 and max(foE, foEs) values compared to background values, by magnetic local time and day number relative to zero epoch. ©2015. American Geophysical Union.

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