Large-Scale Gravity Waves in Daytime ICON-MIGHTI Data from 2020

Colin C. Triplett, Brian J. Harding, Yen Jung J. Wu, Scott England, Christoph R. Englert, Jonathan J. Makela, Michael H. Stevens, Thomas Immel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Michelson Interferometer for Global High-resolution Thermospheric Imaging (MIGHTI) onboard the NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) has retrieved profiles of thermospheric wind and temperature in the 90–300 km range for over two years. As part of these limb-viewing measurements, MIGHTI also retrieves a relative volume emission rate (VER) of two atomic oxygen (OI) emissions in the same altitude range. Generally, the VER data do not vary in concert with the retrieved winds or temperatures. However, there are periods of observations where the VER measurements clearly vary together with the wind and temperature measurements, in unexpectedly prominent, large-scale structures. These large-scale variations are smaller than the tidal structures that are investigated as part of ICON’s main mission. In this study, we present these large-scale variations as they appear together in the MIGHTI VER, zonal wind, and temperature products. We present a method to extract wave parameters from these structures and show their properties over the entire year of 2020. These large-scale waves consistently have vertical-to-horizontal slopes of 0.01 km/km, an upper-limit of ∼3000km for horizontal wavelengths and of ∼35km for vertical wavelengths. We interpret these waves as inertia gravity waves. While observational evidence for such waves is not new, it was not expected to observe their signatures with ICON data. Thus, this new global data set opens up a new and unique data source to explore this wave-type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • ICON
  • Large-scale gravity waves
  • Neutral winds
  • Temperature
  • Thermosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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