Articles | Volume 24, issue 2
23 Mar 2006
 | 23 Mar 2006

Comparative investigations of equatorial electrodynamics and low-to-mid latitude coupling of the thermosphere-ionosphere system

M. J. Colerico, M. Mendillo, C. G. Fesen, and J. Meriwether

Abstract. The thermospheric midnight temperature maximum (MTM) is a highly variable, but persistent, large scale neutral temperature enhancement which occurs at low latitudes. Its occurrence can impact many fundamental upper atmospheric parameters such as pressure, density, neutral winds, neutral density, and F-region plasma. Although the MTM has been the focus of several investigations employing various instrumentation including photometers, satellites, and Fabry-Perot interferometers, limited knowledge exists regarding the latitude extent of its influence on the upper atmosphere. This is largely due to observational limitations which confined the collective geographic range to latitudes within ±23°. This paper investigates the MTM's latitudinal extent through all-sky imaging observations of its 6300Å airglow signature referred to by Colerico et al. (1996) as the midnight brightness wave (MBW). The combined field of view of three Southern Hemisphere imaging systems located at Arequipa, Peru, and Tucuman and El Leoncito, Argentina, for the first time extends the contiguous latitudinal range of imager observations to 8° S-39° S in the American sector. Our results highlight the propagation of MBW events through the combined fields of view past 39° S latitude, providing the first evidence that the MTM's effect on the upper atmosphere extends into mid-latitudes. The observations presented here are compared with modeled 6300Å emissions calculated using the NCAR thermosphere-ionosphere-electrodynamic general circulation model (TIEGCM) in conjunction with an airglow code. We report that at this time TIEGCM is unable to simulate an MBW event due to the model's inability to reproduce an MTM of the same magnitude and occurrence time as those observed via FPI measurements made from Arequipa. This work also investigates the origins of an additional low latitude airglow feature referred to by Colerico et al. (1996) as the pre-midnight brightness wave (PMBW) and described as an enhancement in 6300Å emission which occurs typically between 20:00-22:00 LT and exhibits equatorward propagation. We present the first successful simulation of a PMBW event using the TIEGCM and the airglow code. We find that the PMBW's origin is electro-dynamical in nature, resulting from the expected evening decay of the inter-tropical arcs.