Effects of the midnight temperature maximum observed in the thermosphere–ionosphere over the northeast of Brazil
Abstract. The midnight temperature maximum (MTM) has been observed in the lower thermosphere by two Fabry–Pérot interferometers (FPIs) at São João do Cariri (7.4° S, 36.5° W) and Cajazeiras (6.9° S, 38.6° W) during 2011, when the solar activity was moderate and the solar flux was between 90 and 155 SFU (1 SFU = 10−22 W m−2 Hz−1). The MTM is studied in detail using measurements of neutral temperature, wind and airglow relative intensity of OI630.0 nm (referred to as OI6300), and ionospheric parameters, such as virtual height (h′F), the peak height of the F2 region (hmF2), and critical frequency of the F region (foF2), which were measured by a Digisonde instrument (DPS) at Eusébio (3.9° S, 38.4° W; geomagnetic coordinates 7.31° S, 32.40° E for 2011). The MTM peak was observed mostly along the year, except in May, June, and August. The amplitudes of the MTM varied from 64 ± 46 K in April up to 144 ± 48 K in October. The monthly temperature average showed a phase shift in the MTM peak around 0.25 h in September to 2.5 h in December before midnight. On the other hand, in February, March, and April the MTM peak occurred around midnight. International Reference Ionosphere 2012 (IRI-2012) model was compared to the neutral temperature observations and the IRI-2012 model failed in reproducing the MTM peaks. The zonal component of neutral wind flowed eastward the whole night; regardless of the month and the magnitude of the zonal wind, it was typically within the range of 50 to 150 m s−1 during the early evening. The meridional component of the neutral wind changed its direction over the months: from November to February, the meridional wind in the early evening flowed equatorward with a magnitude between 25 and 100 m s−1; in contrast, during the winter months, the meridional wind flowed to the pole within the range of 0 to −50 m s−1. Our results indicate that the reversal (changes in equator to poleward flow) or abatement of the meridional winds is an important factor in the MTM generation. From February to April and from September to December, the h′F and the hmF2 showed an increase around 18:00–20:00 LT within a range between 300 and 550 km and reached a minimal height of about 200–300 km close to midnight; then the layer rose again by about 40 km or, sometimes, remained at constant height. Furthermore, during the winter months, the h′F and hmF2 showed a different behavior; the signature of the pre-reversal enhancement did not appear as in other months and the heights did not exceed 260 and 350 km. Our observation indicated that the midnight collapse of the F region was a consequence of the MTM in the meridional wind that was reflected in the height of the F region. Lastly, the behavior of the OI6300 showed, from February to April and from September to December, an increase in intensity around midnight or 1 h before, which was associated with the MTM, whereas, from May to August, the relative intensity was more intense in the early evening and decayed during the night.