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EISCAT observations of ion composition and temperature anisotropy in the high-latitude F-region

Lockwood, M. ORCID:, McCrea, I.W., Millward, G.H., Moffett, R.J. and Rishbeth, H. (1993) EISCAT observations of ion composition and temperature anisotropy in the high-latitude F-region. Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, 55 (6). pp. 895-906. ISSN 00219169

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/0021-9169(93)90029-X


The papers by Winser et al. [(1990) J. atmos. terr. Phys.52, 501] and Häggström and Collis [(1990) J. atmos. terr. Phys.52, 519] used plasma flows and ion temperatures, as measured by the EISCAT tristatic incoherent scatter radar, to investigate changes in the ion composition of the ionospheric F-layer at high latitudes, in response to increases in the speed of plasma convection. These studies reported that the ion composition rapidly changed from mainly O+ to almost completely (>90%) molecular ions, following rapid increases in ion drift speed by >1 km s−1. These changes appeared inconsisent with theoretical considerations of the ion chemistry, which could not account for the large fractions of molecular ions inferred from the obsevations. In this paper, we discuss two causes of this discrepancy. First, we reevaluate the theoretical calculations for chemical equilibrium and show that, if we correct the derived temperatures for the effect of the molecular ions, and if we employ more realistic dependences of the reaction rates on the ion temperature, the composition changes derived for the faster convection speeds can be explained. For the Winser et al. observations with the radar beam at an aspect angle of ϕ = 54.7° to the geomagnetic field, we now compute a change to 89% molecular ions in < 2 min, in response to the 3 km s−1 drift. This is broadly consistent with the observations. But for the two cases considered by Häggström and Collis, looking along the field line (ϕ = 0°), we compute the proportion of molecular ions to be only 4 and 16% for the observed plasma drifts of 1.2 and 1.6 km s−1, respectively. These computed proportions are much smaller than those derived experimentally (70 and 90%). We attribute the differences to the effects of non-Maxwellian, anisotropic ion velocity distribution functions. We also discuss the effect of ion composition changes on the various radar observations that report anisotropies of ion temperature.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:38826

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