Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Ludger Scherliess


Ludger Scherliess


Robert Schunk


Bela Fejer


Michael Taylor


Charles Swenson


One of the intriguing features of the F-region ionosphere are anomalous evening enhancements of the electron density over certain mid-latitude sites. The most prominent example of this enhancement is the Weddell Sea Anomaly. Although the evening anomalies have been known for several decades, their generation mechanisms are still under debate and their accurate modeling remains a challenge. In this dissertation, the role of thermospheric neutral winds in the generation of these anomalies is investigated.

Thermospheric winds play an important role in the dynamics of the F-region ionosphere, and, as it will be shown, in the generation of the evening anomalies. However, to date, their reliable estimation remains a challenge. To mitigate this shortcoming, data assimilation models were employed. First, seasonal global maps of F-region peak parameters (NmF2 and hmF2) from COSMIC radio occultation measurements were assimilated into the Global Assimilation of Ionospheric Measurements Full Physics (GAIM-FP) model. The model estimates magnetic meridional winds at low and mid-latitudes. GAIM-FP estimated winds were shown to be in good agreement with independent ground-based wind observations. Next, in order to address the role of neutral wind components in the generation of anomalies, a separate, 3-D physics-based Thermosphere Wind Assimilation Model (TWAM) was developed. TWAM is based on an implicit Kalman filter technique, and combines GAIM-FP magnetic meridional wind data with the equation of motion of the neutral gas to provide the climatology of the thermospheric wind components. The neutral wind components estimated by TWAM were also found to be in close quantitative agreement with independent ground-based wind observations, and were shown to accurately reproduce NmF2 and hmF2 over the anomalies.

To understand the physical mechanism behind the anomalies, the plasma production, loss, and transport processes were analyzed. It was found that, due to the action of the equatorward wind, the evening density maximum forms at altitudes where the recombination rate is relatively small. It was revealed that at this time and altitude, plasma loss due to transport also weakens. As a consequence, the relative role of solar production increases over the net loss process and the electron density enhancement occurs.



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