Dynamical influences on thermospheric composition: implications for semi-empirical models

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Eric K Sutton, Air Force Research Laboratory Kirtland AFB, Kirtland AFB, NM, United States and Stanley C Solomon, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
The TIE-GCM was recently augmented to include helium and argon, two approximately inert species that can be used as tracers of dynamics in the thermosphere. The former species is treated as a major species due to its large abundance near the upper boundary. The effects of exospheric transport are also included in order to simulate realistic seasonal and latitudinal helium distributions. The latter species is treated as a classical minor species, imparting absolutely no forces on the background atmosphere. In this study, we examine the interplay of the various dynamical terms – i.e. background circulation, molecular and Eddy diffusion – as they drive departures from the distributions that would be expected under the assumption of diffusive equilibrium. As this has implications on the formulation of all empirical thermospheric models, we use this understanding to address the following questions: (1) how do errors caused by the assumption of diffusive equilibrium manifest within empirical models of the thermosphere? and (2) where and when does an empirical model’s output disagree with its underlying datasets due to the inherent limitations of said model’s formulation?