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The anomalous ionosphere between solar cycles 23 and 24

AuthorSolomon, Stanley; Qian, Liying; Burns, Alan;
Keywordsclimate; Ionosphere; irradiance; solar; thermosphere; ultraviolet

The solar minimum period during 2008\textendash2009 was characterized by lower thermospheric density than the previous solar minimum and lower than any previously measured. Recent work used the NCAR Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model to show that the primary cause of density changes from 1996 to 2008 was a small reduction in solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) irradiance, causing a decrease in thermospheric temperature and hence a contracted thermosphere. There are similar effects in the ionosphere, with most measurements showing an F region ionosphere that is unusually low in density, and in peak altitude. This paper addresses the question of whether model simulations previously conducted, and their solar, geomagnetic, and anthropogenic inputs, produce ionospheric changes commensurate with observations. We conducted a 15 year model run and obtained good agreement with observations of the global mean thermospheric density at 400 km throughout the solar cycle, with a reduction of ~30\% from the 1996 solar minimum to 2008\textendash2009. We then compared ionosonde measurements of the midday peak density of the ionospheric F region (NmF2) to the model simulations at various locations. Reasonable agreement was obtained between measurements and the model, supporting the validity of the neutral density comparisons. The global average NmF2 was estimated to have declined between the two solar minima by ~15\%. In these simulations, a 10\% reduction of solar EUV plays the largest role in causing the ionospheric change, with a minor contribution from lower geomagnetic activity and a very small additional effect from anthropogenic increase in CO2.

Year of Publication2013
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Number of Pages6524-6535
Date Published10/2013