Characteristics of satellite accelerometer measurements of thermospheric neutral winds at high latitudes
Abstract:Thermospheric neutral winds play an important part in the coupled thermosphere-ionosphere system at high latitudes. Neutral wind speeds have been derived from the CHAMP and GOCE satellites, which carried precise accelerometers in low Earth orbits. Due to the need to simultaneously determine thermosphere neutral density from the accelerometer in-track measurements, only information on the wind component in the cross-track direction, perpendicular to the flight direction can be derived. However, contrary to ground-based Fabry-Perot interferometer and scanning Doppler imager observations of the thermosphere wind, these satellite-based measurements provide equally distributed coverage over both hemispheres. The sampling of seasonal and local time variations depend on the precession rate of the satellite’s orbital plane, with CHAMP covering about 28 cycles of 24-hour local solar time coverage, during its 10 year mission (2000-2010), while the near sun-synchronous orbit of GOCE resulted in a much more limited local time coverage ranging from 6:20 to 8:00 (am and pm), during a science mission duration of 4 years (2009-2013).
For this study, the wind data from both CHAMP and GOCE have been analysed in terms of seasonal variations and geographic and geomagnetic local solar time and latitude coordinates, in order to make statistical comparisons for both the Northern and Southern polar areas. The wind data from both satellites were studied independently and in combination, in order to investigate how the strengths and weaknesses of the instruments and orbit parameters of these missions affect investigations of interhemispheric differences. Finally, the data have been compared with results from coupled ionosphere-thermosphere models and from ground-based FPI and SDI measurements.