Articles | Volume 25, issue 11
29 Nov 2007
 | 29 Nov 2007

LION: A dynamic computer model for the low-latitude ionosphere

J. A. Bittencourt, V. G. Pillat, P. R. Fagundes, Y. Sahai, and A. A. Pimenta

Abstract. A realistic fully time-dependent computer model, denominated LION (Low-latitude Ionospheric) model, that simulates the dynamic behavior of the low-latitude ionosphere is presented. The time evolution and spatial distribution of the ionospheric particle densities and velocities are computed by numerically solving the time-dependent, coupled, nonlinear system of continuity and momentum equations for the ions O+, O2+, NO+, N2+ and N+, taking into account photoionization of the atmospheric species by the solar extreme ultraviolet radiation, chemical and ionic production and loss reactions, and plasma transport processes, including the ionospheric effects of thermospheric neutral winds, plasma diffusion and electromagnetic E×B plasma drifts. The Earth's magnetic field is represented by a tilted centered magnetic dipole. This set of coupled nonlinear equations is solved along a given magnetic field line in a Lagrangian frame of reference moving vertically, in the magnetic meridian plane, with the electromagnetic E×B plasma drift velocity. The spatial and time distribution of the thermospheric neutral wind velocities and the pattern of the electromagnetic drifts are taken as known quantities, given through specified analytical or empirical models. The model simulation results are presented in the form of computer-generated color maps and reproduce the typical ionization distribution and time evolution normally observed in the low-latitude ionosphere, including details of the equatorial Appleton anomaly dynamics. The specific effects on the ionosphere due to changes in the thermospheric neutral winds and the electromagnetic plasma drifts can be investigated using different wind and drift models, including the important longitudinal effects associated with magnetic declination dependence and latitudinal separation between geographic and geomagnetic equators. The model runs in a normal personal computer (PC) and generates color maps illustrating the typical behavior of the low-latitude ionosphere for a given longitudinal region, for different seasons, geophysical conditions and solar activity, at each instant of time, showing the time evolution of the low-latitude ionosphere, between about 20° north and south of the magnetic equator. This paper presents a detailed description of the mathematical model and illustrative computer results.