Thermospheric ionization from auroral particle precipitation observed by the SSUSI satellite instruments

Solar, auroral, and radiation belt electrons enter the atmosphere at polar regions leading to ionization and affecting its chemistry. Climate models usually parametrize this ionization and the related changes in chemistry based on satellite particle measurements. Precise measurements of the particle and energy influx into the upper atmosphere are difficult because they vary substantially in location and time. Widely used particle data are derived from the POES and GOES satellite measurements which provide electron and proton spectra. We present the electron energy and flux measurements from the Special Sensor Ultraviolet Spectrographic Imager (SSUSI) instruments on board the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites. This formation of now three operating satellites observes the auroral zone in the UV from which electron energies and fluxes are inferred in the range from 2 keV to 20 keV. We use these observed electron energies and fluxes to calculate ionization rates and electron densities in the upper mesosphere and lower thermosphere (≈ 80–200 km). We present our validation study of the SSUSI-derived electron densities to those measured by the ground-based EISCAT radar stations. We find that with the current standard parametrizations, the SSUSI-derived auroral electron densities (90–150 km) agree well with EISCAT measurements, with differences between +/- 20% for F18, and +/- 50 % for F17. The largest differences are at the lower end of the altitude range because there the electron densities decline very rapidly.
Year of Publication
Earth and Space Science Open Archive ESSOAr