Articles | Volume 22, issue 2
01 Jan 2004
 | 01 Jan 2004

Variations of thermospheric composition according to AE-C data and CTIP modelling

H. Rishbeth, R. A. Heelis, and I. C. F. Müller-Wodarg

Abstract. Data from the Atmospheric Explorer C satellite, taken at middle and low latitudes in 1975-1978, are used to study latitudinal and month-by-month variations of thermospheric composition. The parameter used is the "compositional Ρ-parameter", related to the neutral atomic oxygen/molecular nitrogen concentration ratio. The midlatitude data show strong winter maxima of the atomic/molecular ratio, which account for the "seasonal anomaly" of the ionospheric F2-layer. When the AE-C data are compared with the empirical MSIS model and the computational CTIP ionosphere-thermosphere model, broadly similar features are found, but the AE-C data give a more molecular thermosphere than do the models, especially CTIP. In particular, CTIP badly overestimates the winter/summer change of composition, more so in the south than in the north. The semiannual variations at the equator and in southern latitudes, shown by CTIP and MSIS, appear more weakly in the AE-C data. Magnetic activity produces a more molecular thermosphere at high latitudes, and at mid-latitudes in summer.

Key words. Atmospheric composition and structure (thermosphere – composition and chemistry)