Redistribution of H atoms in the upper atmosphere during geomagnetic storms


Geocoronal H emission data acquired by NASA\textquoterights Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics mission are analyzed to quantify the H density distribution over the entire magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere region in order to investigate the response of the atmospheric system as a whole to geomagnetic storms. It is shown that at low and middle latitudes the H density averaged over storm times in the thermosphere-exosphere transition region decreases by \~30\%, while the H density at exospheric altitudes above \~1\textendash2\ RE increases by up to \~40\% relative to quiet times. We postulate that enhanced ion-neutral charge exchange in the topside ionosphere and inner plasmasphere is the primary driver of the observed H redistribution. Specifically, charge exchange reactions between H atoms and ionospheric/plasmaspheric O+ lead to direct H loss, while those between thermal H and H+ yield kinetically energized H atoms which populate gravitationally bound satellite orbits. The resulting H density enhancements in the outer exosphere would enhance the charge exchange rates in the ring current and the associated energetic neutral atom production. Regardless of the underlying mechanisms, H redistribution should be considered as an important process in the study of storm time atmospheric evolution, and the resultant changes in the geocoronal H emissions potentially could be used to monitor geomagnetic storms.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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