Plasma-Neutral Coupling on the Dark and Bright Sides of Antarctica
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:06 PM
The polar mesosphere and thermosphere provide a unique natural laboratory for studying the complex physical, chemical, neutral dynamical and electrodynamics processes in the Earth’s atmosphere and space environment. McMurdo (geographic 77.83S, geomagnetic 80S) is located by the poleward edge of the aurora oval; so energetic particles may penetrate into the lower thermosphere and mesosphere along nearly vertical geomagnetic field lines. Lidar observations at McMurdo from December 2010 to 2014 have discovered several neutral atmosphere phenomena closely related to ionosphereic parameters and geomagnetic activity. For example, the diurnal tidal amplitude of temperatures not only increases super-exponentially from 100 to 110 km but also its growth rate becomes larger at larger Kp index. The lidar discovery of neutral iron (Fe) layers with gravity wave signatures in the thermosphere enabled the direct measurements of neutral temperatures from 30 to 170 km, revealing the neutral-ion coupling and aurora-enhanced Joule heating. A lidar 'marathon' of 174-hour continuous observations showed dramatic changes of composition (Fe atoms and ice particles) densities (over 40 times) in the mesopause region and their correlations to solar events. In this paper we will study the plasma-neutral coupling on the dark side of Antarctica via observation analysis and numerical modeling of the thermospheric Fe layers in the 100-200 km. A newly developed thermospheric Fe/Fe+ model is used to quantify how Fe+ ions are transported from their main deposition region to the E-F region and then neutralized to form Fe layers under dark polar conditions. We will also study the plasma-neutral coupling on the bright side of Antarctica via analyzing Fe events in summer. Complementary observations will be combined to show how the extreme changes of Fe layers are related to aurora particle precipitation and visible/sub-visible ice particles. These observations and studies will open new areas of scientific inquiry regarding the composition, chemistry, neutral dynamics, thermodynamics, and electrodynamics of one of the least-understood regions in the atmosphere.