Climatological study of the ion temperature in the ionosphere as recorded by Millstone Hill incoherent scatter radar and comparison with the IRI model

Ion temperature data recorded by Millstone Hill incoherent scatter radar (42.61° N, 288.51° E) over four full solar cycles (from 1970 to 2018) are analyzed to depict its climatological behavior in the range of altitudes between 100 and 550 km. The ion temperature dependencies on altitude, local time, month of the year, and solar activity level are studied through a climatological analysis based on binning and boxplot representation of statistical values. Binned observations of ion temperature are compared with International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) modeled values (IRI-2016 version). This comparison reveals several shortcomings in the IRI modeling of the ion temperature at ionosphere altitudes, in particular for the altitudinal, diurnal, seasonal, and solar activity description. The main finding of this study is that the overall IRI overestimation of the ion temperature can be probably ascribed to the long-term ionosphere cooling. Moreover, the study suggests that the IRI ion temperature model needs to implement the seasonal and solar activity dependence, and introduce a more refined diurnal description to allow multiple diurnal maxima seen in observations. The IRI ion temperature anchor point at 430 km is investigated in more detail to show how also a better description of the altitude dependence is desirable for modeling purposes. Some hints and clues are finally given to improve the IRI ion temperature model.
Year of Publication
Advances in Space Research
Number of Pages
Date Published
ISSN Number
Download citation