Global UltraViolet Imager

Planetary Waves and Their Impact on the Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Ionosphere

Large-scale planetary waves (also known as Rossby waves), such as the Quasi-two day wave, 5 day wave and Kelvin wave, play crucial roles in coupling the lower and middle atmosphere to the mesosphere, thermosphere and ionosphere. Upward propagation and global structure of planetary waves in the stratosphere and mesosphere are affected by the zonal mean winds. Baroclinic or barotropic instability of the background mesospheric winds can amplify the waves en route to the upper atmosphere. Fast traveling planetary waves with deep vertical wavelengths, such as Kelvin waves, are able to reach the upper thermosphere and modulate air density and winds. More commonly, planetary waves influence the thermosphere-ionosphere system by modulating the E-region and F-region dynamo electric fields. Dissipation of planetary waves in the lower thermosphere modifies the background winds, and induces extra meridional circulation, consequently altering thermospheric constituents, such as O/N2, and ionospheric electron densities. Interactions between planetary waves and tides not only provide an additional source of traveling planetary waves in the mesosphere, but are key sources of variability in E-region dynamo electric fields and plasma drift.
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