Accuracy issues of the existing thermospheric wind models: can we rely on them in seeking solutions to wind-driven problems?
- 1Department of Physics & Astronomy, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA
- *currently at: National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, USA
Abstract. We address the question of the ability of empirical and general circulation model neutral wind profiles in the lower thermosphere to reproduce the observed characteristics of the winds in that part of the atmosphere. The winds in that altitude range are critical for electrodynamic processes, but evaluations of the model winds are generally difficult because of the sparse observational data, which makes an evaluation of the wind predictions over large areas difficult or impossible. In this paper, we use a recently identified characteristic of the winds in the lower thermosphere, namely the enhanced winds and strong shears between 95 and 115 km altitude, as a test of the models, at least in a statistical sense. Our results show that the Horizontal Wind Model (HWM) significantly underestimates the maximum winds and shears in the lower thermosphere, although it has reasonable agreement with the average winds. The NCAR general circulation model used in this study also underestimates the maximum winds and shears significantly when run with standard resolution, as well as producing an unrealistic increase of the wind speed with height. The agreement between the model and the observations improves significantly however, in a statistical sense, when the altitude resolution is increased. The improved height resolution in the model appears to produce a greater improvement in the model predictions than any of the other factors that we examined, such as improving the geomagnetic forcing or the forcing at the lower boundary.