Articles | Volume 31, issue 2
Regular paper
19 Feb 2013
Regular paper |  | 19 Feb 2013

Variability of ionospheric TEC during solar and geomagnetic minima (2008 and 2009): external high speed stream drivers

O. P. Verkhoglyadova, B. T. Tsurutani, A. J. Mannucci, M. G. Mlynczak, L. A. Hunt, and T. Runge

Abstract. We study solar wind–ionosphere coupling through the late declining phase/solar minimum and geomagnetic minimum phases during the last solar cycle (SC23) – 2008 and 2009. This interval was characterized by sequences of high-speed solar wind streams (HSSs). The concomitant geomagnetic response was moderate geomagnetic storms and high-intensity, long-duration continuous auroral activity (HILDCAA) events. The JPL Global Ionospheric Map (GIM) software and the GPS total electron content (TEC) database were used to calculate the vertical TEC (VTEC) and estimate daily averaged values in separate latitude and local time ranges. Our results show distinct low- and mid-latitude VTEC responses to HSSs during this interval, with the low-latitude daytime daily averaged values increasing by up to 33 TECU (annual average of ~20 TECU) near local noon (12:00 to 14:00 LT) in 2008. In 2009 during the minimum geomagnetic activity (MGA) interval, the response to HSSs was a maximum of ~30 TECU increases with a slightly lower average value than in 2008. There was a weak nighttime ionospheric response to the HSSs. A well-studied solar cycle declining phase interval, 10–22 October 2003, was analyzed for comparative purposes, with daytime low-latitude VTEC peak values of up to ~58 TECU (event average of ~55 TECU). The ionospheric VTEC changes during 2008–2009 were similar but ~60% less intense on average. There is an evidence of correlations of filtered daily averaged VTEC data with Ap index and solar wind speed.

We use the infrared NO and CO2 emission data obtained with SABER on TIMED as a proxy for the radiation balance of the thermosphere. It is shown that infrared emissions increase during HSS events possibly due to increased energy input into the auroral region associated with HILDCAAs. The 2008–2009 HSS intervals were ~85% less intense than the 2003 early declining phase event, with annual averages of daily infrared NO emission power of ~ 3.3 × 1010 W and 2.7 × 1010 W in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The roles of disturbance dynamos caused by high-latitude winds (due to particle precipitation and Joule heating in the auroral zones) and of prompt penetrating electric fields (PPEFs) in the solar wind–ionosphere coupling during these intervals are discussed. A correlation between geoeffective interplanetary electric field components and HSS intervals is shown. Both PPEF and disturbance dynamo mechanisms could play important roles in solar wind–ionosphere coupling during prolonged (up to days) external driving within HILDCAA intervals.