Ionospheric and Thermospheric Responses to the Recent Strong Solar Flares on 6 September 2017


Two solar flares X2.2 and X9.3 erupted over the active region 2673 on 6 September 2017, and the second flare is the strongest since 2005. In order to investigate the ionospheric and thermospheric responses to the two solar flares, the global total electron content and the critical frequency of F2 layer obtained from GPS stations and ionosondes are used. The results indicate that the ionosphere in the sunlit hemisphere increased significantly with magnitudes of 0.1 and 0.5 total electron content units for the X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares, respectively. The electron density, thermospheric neutral density, and neutral temperature simulated by the Thermosphere-Ionosphere Electrodynamics Global Circulation Model show that the behavior of ionospheric and thermospheric responses is different. The ionospheric disturbances occurred at the altitude ranges of 150-300\ km, and the thermospheric responses occurred at the altitudes of 250-400\ km are caused by solar extreme ultraviolet and ultraviolet photons, respectively. Both ionospheric and thermospheric responses are proportional to the height within their corresponding altitude ranges. Observations and simulations reveal that the ionospheric and thermospheric responses are nonlinearly dependent on the solar zenith angle. The disturbances caused by the X2.2 solar flare are symmetric, but the X9.3 solar flare are not. The O/N2 density ratio simulated by Thermosphere-Ionosphere Electrodynamics Global Circulation Model increases from lev0 to lev5.0 pressure surface with a magnitude of 0.1\textendash1.8, while the ratio decreases in the American sector with a magnitude of -0.6 to -0.3. The longitudinal asymmetry of O/N2 density ratio is a major contributor to the longitudinal asymmetry of ionospheric and thermospheric responses.

Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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