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Climatology and storm time dependence ofnighttime thermospheric neutral winds over Millstone Hill

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Geophysical Research






American Geophysical Union

Publication Date



We use 630.0 nm nightglow Fabry-Perot measurements over Millstone Hill from 1989–1999 to study the climatology and storm time dependence of the midlatitude thermospheric winds. Our quiet time wind patterns are consistent with results from earlier studies. We determine the perturbation winds by subtracting from each measurement the corresponding quiet time averages. The climatological zonal disturbance winds are largely independent of season and solar flux and show large early night westward and small late-night eastward winds similar to disturbance ion drifts. The meridional perturbation winds vary strongly with season and solar flux. When the solar flux is low, the winter and equinox average meridional winds change from equatorward to poleward at ∼2200 LT, and the summer winds are equatorward throughout the night. The high solar flux meridional winds are poleward, with magnitudes increasing from dawn to dusk at all seasons. These disturbance winds patterns are in poor agreement with results from the empirical horizontal wind model, HWM-93. The zonal and meridional disturbance winds show very large variations relative to their average values. We have also studied the time-dependent response of the midlatitude thermospheric winds to enhanced magnetic activity. The early night westward winds build up to large amplitudes (about twice their climatological values) in ∼6 hours; the late-night eastward winds are smaller and reach their peak values ∼3 hours after the increase in magnetic activity. The storm time dependence of the meridional winds is considerably more complex than that of the zonal winds, and it varies with season and solar flux. Following enhanced magnetic activity, equatorward winds are observed at all local times and seasons, but the increase of their amplitudes with storm time is fastest in the late local time sector. Near midnight, and when the solar flux is low, the meridional winds reverse from equatorward to poleward ∼6–10 hours after the increase in magnetic activity. This reversal is fastest (slowest) during December (June) solstice. At later local times, and for high solar flux conditions, the variation of the meridional disturbance winds is season independent. The observed storm time dependence partly explains the large variability of the disturbance winds.

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