Articles | Volume 20, issue 8
31 Aug 2002
 | 31 Aug 2002

A model of mid-latitude E-region plasma convergence inside a planetary wave cyclonic vortex

S. Shalimov and C. Haldoupis

Abstract. Recently, Shalimov et al. (1999) proposed a new mechanism for large-scale accumulation of long-lived metallic ions in the mid-latitude ionosphere driven by planetary waves in the lower thermosphere. In this mechanism, the combined action of frictional and horizontal magnetic field forces at E-region altitudes causes the plasma to converge and accumulate in large areas of positive neutral wind vorticity within a propagating planetary wave. The present paper provides a theoretical formulation for this mechanism by modelling both horizontal and vertical plasma transport effects within a planetary wave vortex, of cyclonic neutral wind. Non-steady-state numerical solutions of the ion continuity equation show that the proposed accumulation process can enhance the ionization significantly inside the planetary wave vortex but its efficiency depends strongly on altitude, whereas on the other hand, it can be complicated by vertical plasma motions. The latter, which are driven by the same planetary wave wind field under the action of the vertical Lorentz force and meridional wind forcing along the magnetic field lines, can lead to either plasma compressions or depletions, depending on the prevailing wind direction. We conclude that, for shorter times, vertical plasma transport may act constructively to the horizontal gathering process to produce considerable E-region plasma accumulation over large sectors of a planetary wave vortex of cyclonic winds.

Key words. Ionosphere (ionosphere-atmosphere interactions; mid-latitude ionosphere; sporadic E-layers) – Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (waves and tides)