First direct evidence of meso-scale variability on ion-neutral dynamics using co-located tristatic FPIs and EISCAT radar in Northern Scandinavia

A. L. Aruliah*, E. M. Griffin, A. D. Aylward, E. A.K. Ford, M. J. Kosch, C. J. Davis, V. S.C. Howells, S. E. Pryse, H. R. Middleton, J. Jussila

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper presents the first direct empirical evidence that mesoscale variations in ion velocities must be taken into consideration when calculating Joule heating and relating it to changes in ion temperatures and momentum transfer to the neutral gas. The data come from the first tristatic Fabry-Perot Interferometer (FPI) measurements of the neutral atmosphere co-located with tristatic measurements of the ionosphere made by the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) radar which were carried out during the nights of 27-28 February 2003 and 28 February until 1 March 2003. Tristatic measurements mean that there are no assumptions of uniform wind fields and ion drifts, nor zero vertical winds. The independent, tristatic, thermospheric measurements presented here should provide unambiguous vector wind information, and hence reduce the need to supplement observations with information obtained from models of the neutral atmosphere, or with estimates of neutral parameters derived from ionospheric measurements. These new data can also test the assumptions used in models and in ion-neutral interactions. The FPIs are located close to the 3 radars of the EISCAT configuration in northern Scandinavia, which is a region well covered by a network of complementary instruments. These provide a larger scale context within which to interpret our observations of mesoscale variations on the scales of tens of kilometres spatially and minutes temporally. Initial studies indicate that the thermosphere is more dynamic and responsive to ionospheric forcing than expected. Calculations using the tristatic volume measurements show that the magnitude of the neutral wind dynamo contribution was on average 29% of Joule heating during the first night of observation. At times it either enhanced or reduced the effective electric field by up to several tens of percent. The tristatic experiment also presents the first validation of absolute temperature measurements from a common volume observed by independently calibrated FPIs. Comparison of EISCAT ion temperatures at an altitude of 240 km with FPI neutral temperatures show that Ti was around 200 K below Tn for nearly 3 h on the first night during a period of strong geomagnetic activity. This is inconsistent with energy transfer. Comparison with FPI temperatures from surrounding regions indicate that it could not be accounted for by height variations. Indeed, these first results seem to indicate that the 630-nm emission did not stray too far from 240 km. There were also apparent drops in Te at the same time as the anomalous Ti values which are energetically implausible. Incorrect assumptions of composition or non-Maxwellian spectra are likely to be the problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-162
Number of pages16
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Ionosphere (Auroral ionosphere; Electric fields and currents; Ionosphere-atmosphere interactions)


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