Neutral Winds through the Mesosphere and Thermosphere derived from Incoherent Scatter Radar: Variability and Climatology

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Michael J Nicolls, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, United States
Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) measurements of ion drifts in the ionosphere are sensitive to neutral motions through ion-neutral collisions. At D-region / mesospheric altitudes, the plasma is collisional on scales of the radar wavelength and thus ion drifts can be used as a direct proxy for neutral motions. At E-region / lower-thermospheric altitudes, the ions undergo a transition whereby the mean free path approaches the scale of the Bragg-scattering wavelength. In the F-region / upper thermosphere, the ions are collisionless and drift at the ExB velocity. The sensing of ion motions is thus extremely useful for the assessment of ionospheric electrodynamics. We utilize case studies from the Poker Flat and Arecibo ISRs to illustrate the utility of this feature of ion motions by showing (a) examples of neutral wind measurements from the mesosphere through the thermosphere, (b) the impact of derived neutral winds on the interpretation of gravity wave dissipation and forcing, and (c) climatological variations of the lower thermospheric winds and the response of the high-latitude lower thermospheric winds to forcing.