Articles | Volume 31, issue 10
Regular paper
15 Oct 2013
Regular paper |  | 15 Oct 2013

Seasonal dependence of the longitudinal variations of nighttime ionospheric electron density and equivalent winds at southern midlatitudes

X. Luan and X. Dou

Abstract. It has been indicated that the observed Weddell Sea anomaly (WSA) appeared to be an extreme manifestation of the longitudinal variations in the Southern Hemisphere, since the WSA is characterized by greater evening electron density than the daytime density in the region near the Weddell Sea. In the present study, the longitudinal variations of the nighttime F2-layer peak electron density at southern midlatitudes are analyzed using the observations of the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) satellites between 2006 and 2008. It is found that significant longitudinal difference (> 150%) relative to the minimum density at each local time prevails in all seasons, although the WSA phenomenon is only evident in summer under this solar minimum condition. Another interesting feature is that in summer, the maximum longitudinal differences occur around midnight (~ 23:00–00:00 LT) rather than in the evening (19:00–21:00 LT) in the evening, when the most prominent electron density enhancement occurs for the WSA phenomenon. Thus the seasonal–local time patterns of the electron density longitudinal variations during nighttime at southern midlatitudes cannot be simply explained in terms of the WSA. Meanwhile, the variations of the geomagnetic configuration and the equivalent magnetic meridional winds/upward plasma drifts are analyzed to explore their contributions to the longitudinal variations of the nighttime electron density. The maximum longitudinal differences are associated with the strongest wind-induced vertical plasma drifts after 21:00 LT in the Western Hemisphere. Besides the magnetic declination–zonal wind effects, the geographic meridional winds and the magnetic inclination also have significant effects on the upward plasma drifts and the resultant electron density.