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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics






American Geophysical Union

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Plasmaspheric densities have been observed previously to be higher in December than in June, with the ratio varying between 1.5 and 3.0 and with larger variations at lower L shells. In order to search for the cause of the observed annual variations, we have modeled plasmaspheric density, using a time-dependent hydrodynamic model. On an L = 2 field line with geomagnetic longitude equal to 300°, the modeled plasmaspheric densities were a factor of 1.5 times higher in December than in June. The modeled December to June density ratio was found to increase slightly with L shell, in contrast to observations; this discrepancy may be due to the fact that outer plasmaspheric flux tubes are never completely full. In addition, for an L = 2 field line with geomagnetic longitude equal to 120°, the modeled plasmaspheric density was higher in June than in December by a factor of about 1.2. Various numerical tests were also performed in order to examine the sensitivity of plasmaspheric density to various parameters. In particular, a large vertical neutral wind was applied in order to raise the O+ profile, which had the effect of raising plasmaspheric density by a factor of 6. This in conjunction with a theoretical analysis suggests that plasmaspheric density levels are very sensitive to O+ levels in the upper ionosphere. We conclude that annual variations in plasmaspheric density are due to similar variations in ionospheric O+.


Originally published by the American Geophysical Union. Abstract available online through the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.

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