New results on the mid-latitude midnight temperature maximum

Rafael L.A. Mesquita, John W. Meriwether, Jonathan J. Makela, Daniel J. Fisher, Brian J. Harding, Samuel C. Sanders, Fasil Tesema, Aaron J. Ridley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fabry-Perot interferometer (FPI) measurements of thermospheric temperatures and winds show the detection and successful determination of the latitudinal distribution of the midnight temperature maximum (MTM) in the continental mid-eastern United States. These results were obtained through the operation of the five FPI observatories in the North American Thermosphere Ionosphere Observing Network (NATION) located at the Pisgah Astronomic Research Institute (PAR) (35.2° N, 82.8° W), Virginia Tech (VTI) (37.2° N, 80.4° W), Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) (37.8° N, 84.3° W), Urbana-Champaign (UAO) (40.2° N, 88.2° W), and Ann Arbor (ANN) (42.3° N, 83.8° W). A new approach for analyzing the MTM phenomenon is developed, which features the combination of a method of harmonic thermal background removal followed by a 2-D inversion algorithm to generate sequential 2-D temperature residual maps at 30 min intervals. The simultaneous study of the temperature data from these FPI stations represents a novel analysis of the MTM and its large-scale latitudinal and longitudinal structure. The major finding in examining these maps is the frequent detection of a secondary MTM peak occurring during the early evening hours, nearly 4.5 h prior to the timing of the primary MTM peak that generally appears after midnight. The analysis of these observations shows a strong night-to-night variability for this double-peaked MTM structure. A statistical study of the behavior of the MTM events was carried out to determine the extent of this variability with regard to the seasonal and latitudinal dependence. The results show the presence of the MTM peak(s) in 106 out of the 472 determinable nights (when the MTM presence, or lack thereof, can be determined with certainty in the data set) selected for analysis (22 %) out of the total of 846 nights available. The MTM feature is seen to appear slightly more often during the summer (27 %), followed by fall (22 %), winter (20 %), and spring (18 %). Also seen is a northwestward propagation of the MTM signature with a latitude-dependent amplitude. This behavior suggests either a latitudinal dependence of thermosphere tidal dissipation or a night-to-night variation of the composition of the higher-order tidal modes that contribute to the production of the MTM peak at mid-latitudes. Also presented in this paper is the perturbation on the divergence of the wind fields, which is associated with the passage of each MTM peak analyzed with the 2-D interpolation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-553
Number of pages13
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018


  • Ionosphere (mid-latitude ionosphere)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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