The quiet nighttime low-latitude ionosphere as observed by TIMED/GUVI


In this paper, we examine the nighttime ionosphere climatology structure in the low latitude region and discrepancies between Global Ultraviolet Imager (GUVI) observations and the IRI model predictions using (1) the magnetic zonal mean of electron number density as a function of altitude and magnetic latitude, (2) vertical electron density profiles at various levels of F10.7 index, (3) nighttime descent and magnitude decrease of the ionosphere, (4) point-to-point comparisons of F-peak height (hmF2) and density (NmF2), and (5) the magnetic longitudinal variations of hmF2 and NmF2. The data collected from the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics, and Dynamics (TIMED) mission since its launch in December 2001 have provided great opportunities for many scientific investigations of the ionosphere. In this analysis, we investigate the climatology of the nighttime low-latitude ionosphere under low geomagnetic activity (kp\ ⩽\ 4) using the electron density profiles inferred from the airglow measurements obtained by the GUVI aboard the TIMED spacecraft and compared with the results obtained from IRI (International Reference Ionosphere) model-2001. The observed climatology is an essential tool for further understanding the electrodynamics in the low-latitude region and improving the model\textquoterights prediction capability. The time range of the GUVI data used in this study is from 2002 (day 053) to 2006 (day 304), and the IRI model predictions were produced at every GUVI location. The ionosphere observed is generally of greater density than what IRI predicts throughout the night for all four seasons for low and moderate solar activity while the model over-predicts the electron density near the F-region peak at high solar activity before midnight. Observations show that the height of the F-region peak has a steep descent from dusk to midnight and near midnight the height of layer is insensitive to solar conditions, significantly different than what is predicted by IRI. Longitudinal features shown in GUVI data are present in the low-latitude ionosphere after sunset and continue through to midnight after which the low-latitude ionosphere is largely zonally symmetric.

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Advances in Space Research
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