The modelled occurrence of non-thermal plasma in the ionospheric F-region and the possible consequences for ion outflows into the magnetosphere
Lockwood, M. and Fuller-Rowell, T. J. (1987) The modelled occurrence of non-thermal plasma in the ionospheric F-region and the possible consequences for ion outflows into the magnetosphere. Geophysical Research Letters, 14 (4). pp. 371-374. ISSN 0094-8276
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/GL014i004p00371
A global, time-dependent, three-dimensional, coupled ionosphere-thermosphere model is used to predict the spatial distribution of non-thermal plasma in the F-layer. It is shown that, even for steady-state conditions with Kp as low as 3, the difference between the ion and neutral velocities often exceeds the neutral thermal speed by a factor, D', which can be as large as 4. Theoretically, highly non-Maxwellian, and probably toroidal, ion velocity distributions are expected when D' exceeds about 1.5. The lack of response of the neutral winds to sunward ion drifts in the dawn sector of the auroral oval cause this to be the region most likely to contain toroidal distributions. The maximum in D' is found in the throat region of the convection pattern, where the strong neutral winds of the afternoon sector meet the eastward ion flows of the morning sector. These predictions are of interest, not only to radar scientists searching for non-thermal ionospheric plasma, but also as one possible explanation of the initial heating and upward flows of ions in the cleft ion fountain and nightside auroral oval, both of which are a major source of plasma for the magnetosphere.