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Keywords:

  • sudden stratospheric warming;
  • thermosphere electrodynamics;
  • atmospheric modeling

[1] A Whole Atmosphere Model (WAM) has been used to explore the possible physical connection between a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) and the dynamics and electrodynamics of the lower thermosphere. WAM produces SSWs naturally without the need for external forcing. The classical signatures of an SSW appear in the model with a warming of the winter polar stratosphere, a reversal of the temperature gradient, and a breakdown of the stratospheric polar vortex. Substantial changes in the amplitude of stationary planetary wave numbers 1, 2, and 3 occur as the zonal mean zonal wind evolves. The simulations also show a cooling in the mesosphere and a warming in the lower thermosphere consistent with observations. The magnitude of this particular SSW is modest, belonging to the category of minor warming. In the lower thermosphere the amplitude of diurnal, semidiurnal, and terdiurnal, eastward and westward propagating tidal modes change substantially during the event. Since the magnitude of the warming is minor and the tidal interactions with the mean flow and planetary waves are complex, the one-to-one correspondence between tidal amplitudes in the lower thermosphere and the zonal mean and stationary waves in the stratosphere is not entirely obvious. The increase in the magnitude of the terdiurnal tide (TW3) in the lower thermosphere has the clearest correlation with the SSW, although the timing appears delayed by about three days. The fast group velocity of the long vertical wavelength TW3 tide would suggest a faster onset for the direct propagation of the tide from the lower atmosphere. It is possible that changes in the magnitude of the diurnal and semidiurnal tides, with their slower vertical propagation, may interact in the lower thermosphere to introduce a terdiurnal tide with a longer delay. An increase in TW3 in the lower thermosphere would be expected to alter the local time variation of the electrodynamic response. The day-to-day changes in the lower thermosphere winds from WAM are shown to introduce variability in the magnitude of dayside low latitude electric fields, with a tendency during the warming for the dayside vertical drift to be larger and occur earlier, and for the afternoon minimum to be smaller. The numerical simulations suggest that it is quite feasible that a major SSW, with a magnitude seen in January 2009, could cause large changes in lower thermosphere electrodynamics and hence in total electron content.