E-region wind-driven electrical coupling of patchy sporadic-E and spread-F at midlatitude
Abstract. This paper investigates the role of neutral winds in the generation of relatively large polarization electric fields across patchy sporadic-E layers, which then map upward to the F region, to create conditions for medium-scale spread-F. The calculations are based on an analytical model that uses the current continuity equation and field-aligned current closures to the F region in order to describe quantitatively a Hall polarization process inside sporadic-E plasma patches during nighttime. In applying this model we use experimentally known values for E and F region, conductances, the ambient electric fields and prevailing neutral winds, in order to estimate the polarization fields that build up inside sporadic-E. It is found that the relatively strong west-southwest neutral winds during summer nighttime can provide the free energy for the generation of sizable polarization electric fields, which have comparable eastward and north-upward components and reach values of several mV/m. Given that the sporadic-E patches have sizes from a few to several tens of kilometers, the polarization fields can map easily to the F region bottomside where they impact ExB plasma uplifts and westward bulk motions, in line with key observational properties of medium-scale spread-F. However, the present simple model needs further development to also include wind forcing of the F region plasma and possible polarization processes inside spread-F.
Keywords. Ionosphere (Electric fields and currents; Ionospheric irregularities; Mid-latitude ionosphere)