The high latitude circulation and temperature structure of the thermosphere near solstice

R. G. Roble, R. E. Dickinson, E. C. Ridley, B. A. Emery, P. B. Hays, T. L. Killeen, N. W. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neutral gas temperature and circulation of the thermosphere are calculated for December solstice conditions near solar cycle maximum using NCAR's thermospheric general circulation model (TGCM). High-latitude heat and momentum sources significantly alter the basic solar-driven circulation during solstice. At F-region heights, the increased ion density in the summer hemisphere results in a larger ion drag momentum source for the neutral gas than in the winter hemisphere. As a result there are larger wind velocities and a greater tendency for the neutral gas to follow the magnetospheric convection pattern in the summer hemisphere than in the winter hemisphere. There is about three times more Joule heating in the summer than the winter hemisphere for moderate levels of geomagnetic activity due to the greater electrical conductivity in the summer E-region ionosphere. The results of several TGCM runs are used to show that at F-region heights it is possible to linearly combine the solar-driven and high-latitude driven solutions to obtain the total temperature structure and circulation to within 10-20%. In the lower thermosphere, however, non-linear terms cause significant departures and a linear superposition of fields is not valid. The F-region winds at high latitudes calculated by the TGCM are also compared to the meridional wind derived from measurements by the Fabry-Perot Interferometer (FPI) and the zonal wind derived from measurements by the Wind and Temperature Spectrometer (WATS) instruments onboard the Dynamics Explorer (DE-2) satellite for a summer and a winter day. For both examples, the observed and modeled wind patterns are in qualitative agreement, indicating a dominant control of high latitude winds by ion drag. The magnitude of the calculated winds (400-500 m s-1) for the assumed 60 kV cross-tail potential, however, is smaller than that of the measured winds (500-800 m s-1). This suggests the need for an increased ion drag momentum source in the model calculations due to enhanced electron densities, higher ion drift velocities, or some combination that needs to be further denned from the DE-2 satellite measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1479-1499
Number of pages21
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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