Thermospheric General Circulation with Coupled Dynamics and Composition

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307
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Abstract

A general circulation model has been developed for the atmosphere above 97 km. It uses a 5° latitude × 5° longitude grid and 24 vertical levels in increments of 0.5 scale height. The prognostic variables are horizontal winds, temperature, and the mass mixing ratios of atomic and molecular oxygen, which are obtained using hydrodynamic equations and which include vertical transport by realistic models of molecular diffusion. All the prognostic variables are in near diffusive equilibrium in the vertical as the top of the model is approached. Realistic ion drag is included in the model equations for horizontal winds, including the rapid polar drifts of magnetic field fines due to magnetospheric convection. Excellent agreement is achieved between the calculated and observed global averaged composition, provided a reasonable amount of vertical eddy mixing is included in the compositional equations over the lowest model scale height. Calculations are carried out for solar minimum equinox conditions. The calculated variation of composition with latitude is opposite to that observed for the model forced only by solar heating but is brought into reasonable agreement with observations with the inclusion of auroral heating. Generally speaking, auroral heating changes significantly the global patterns of wind, temperature, and composition, and brings the model composition in reasonable agreement with that given by the MSIS empirical model. The calculated diurnal variations of composition with auroral heating are in acceptable agreement with observation. Calculated temperature variations in the upper thermosphere are consistent with a tendency for the coupled model to minimize the ratio of temperature to mean molecular mass.

Abstract

A general circulation model has been developed for the atmosphere above 97 km. It uses a 5° latitude × 5° longitude grid and 24 vertical levels in increments of 0.5 scale height. The prognostic variables are horizontal winds, temperature, and the mass mixing ratios of atomic and molecular oxygen, which are obtained using hydrodynamic equations and which include vertical transport by realistic models of molecular diffusion. All the prognostic variables are in near diffusive equilibrium in the vertical as the top of the model is approached. Realistic ion drag is included in the model equations for horizontal winds, including the rapid polar drifts of magnetic field fines due to magnetospheric convection. Excellent agreement is achieved between the calculated and observed global averaged composition, provided a reasonable amount of vertical eddy mixing is included in the compositional equations over the lowest model scale height. Calculations are carried out for solar minimum equinox conditions. The calculated variation of composition with latitude is opposite to that observed for the model forced only by solar heating but is brought into reasonable agreement with observations with the inclusion of auroral heating. Generally speaking, auroral heating changes significantly the global patterns of wind, temperature, and composition, and brings the model composition in reasonable agreement with that given by the MSIS empirical model. The calculated diurnal variations of composition with auroral heating are in acceptable agreement with observation. Calculated temperature variations in the upper thermosphere are consistent with a tendency for the coupled model to minimize the ratio of temperature to mean molecular mass.

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