Mechanisms of the electron density depletion in the SAR arc region
Abstract. This study compares the measurements of electron density and temperature and the integral airglow intensity at 630 nm in the SAR arc region and slightly south of this (obtained by the Isis 2 spacecraft during the 18 December 1971 magnetic storm), with the model results obtained using the time dependent one-dimensional mathematical model of the Earth\'s ionosphere and plasmasphere. The explicit expression in the third Enskog approximation for the electron thermal conductivity coefficient in the multicomponent mixture of ionized gases and a simplified calculation method for this coefficient presents an opportunity to calculate more exactly the electron temperature and density and 630 nm emission within SAR arc region are used in the model. Collisions between N2 and hot thermal electrons in the SAR arc region produce vibrationally excited nitrogen molecules. It appears that the loss rate of O+(4S) due to reactions with the vibrationally excited nitrogen is enough to explain electron density depression by a factor of two at F-region heights and the topside ionosphere density variations within the SAR arc if the erosion of plasma within geomagnetic field tubes, during the main phase of the geomagnetic storm and subsequent filling of geomagnetic tubes during the recovery phase, are considered. To explain the disagreement by a factor 1.5 between the observed and modeled SAR arc electron densities an additional plasma drift velocity ~–30 m s–1 in the ion continuity equations is needed during the recovery phase. This additional plasma drift velocity is likely caused by the transition from convecting to corotating flux tubes on the equatorward wall of the trough. The electron densities and temperatures and 630 nm integral intensity at the SAR arc and slightly south of this region as measured for the 18 December 1971 magnetic storm were correctly described by the model without perpendicular electric fields. Within this model framework the effect of the perpendicular electric field ~100 mv m–1 with a duration ~1 h on the SAR arc electron density profiles was found to be large. However, this effect is small if ~1–2 h have passed after the electric field was set equal to zero.