Articles | Volume 28, issue 2
25 Feb 2010
 | 25 Feb 2010

Dynamic variability in F-region ionospheric composition at auroral arc boundaries

M. Zettergren, J. Semeter, B. Burnett, W. Oliver, C. Heinselman, P.-L. Blelly, and M. Diaz

Abstract. The work presents a data-model synthesis examining the response of the auroral F-region ion temperature, composition, and density to short time scale (<1 min) electric field disturbances associated with auroral arcs. Ion temperature profiles recorded by the Sondrestrom incoherent scatter radar (ISR) are critically analyzed with the aid of theoretical calculations to infer ion composition variability. The analyses presented include a partial accounting for the effects of neutral winds on frictional heating and show promise as the groundwork for future attempts to address ion temperature-mass ambiguities in short-integration ISR data sets. Results indicate that large NO+ enchancements in the F-region can occur in as little as 20 s in response to impulsive changes in ion frictional heating. Enhancements in molecular ion density result in recombination and a depletion in plasma, which is shown to occur on time scales of several minutes. This depletion process, thus, appears to be of comparable importance to electrodynamic evacuation processes in producing auroral arc-related plasma depletions. Furthermore, the potential of ionospheric composition in regulating the amounts and types of ions supplied to the magnetosphere is outlined.