Airglow observations of mesoscale low-velocity traveling ionospheric disturbances at midlatitudes


  • F. J. Garcia,

  • M. C. Kelley,

  • J. J. Makela,

  • C.-S. Huang


This paper presents a summary of 630.0 nm emission observations made by the Cornell All-Sky Imager that have revealed an abundance of structure in the midlatitude thermosphère. Some events were so bright that the weaker 557.7 nm thermospheric line was readily visible and produced sharper images because of the shorter excitation lifetime. Global Positioning System observations show that the airglow features are traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs). The remarkable feature of the data is the overwhelming tendency for these low-velocity TIDs to develop with a northwest to southeast orientation and to propagate in the southwest direction. Speeds ranged from 50 to 170 m/s, and wavelengths ranged from 50 to 500 km. The Perkins instability is investigated as a possible explanation for the structures. The linear theory, including both winds and electric fields, predicts a positive but small growth rate. However, the real part of the dispersion relation gives the wrong sign for the wave propagation. Furthermore, the growth rate seems too small to amplify a seed gravity wave significantly during one period of neutral gas oscillation. We conclude that this class of low-velocity TID is not yet explained theoretically.