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Keywords:

  • cusp;
  • satellite drag;
  • thermosphere;
  • upwelling

[1] This first-principles examination of physics driving the cusp/polar upper thermosphere response to significant input energy impulses discloses previously unappreciated factors essential to thermospheric input-response relationships. The physics essential to coupling of cusp input-response processes is detailed, to make previously unexplained up-to-doubling of air density and drag near 400 km not only understandable but expected, if not inevitable. Presented as a common natural consequence of magnetic reconnection near the magnetopause, this energy-coupling from sun to upper atmosphere is through familiar processes, but by inadequately appreciated linkages. The underlying physics applies more broadly than this. We trace a logic path that should clarify the input-response, and lay out a path which if followed should enable most existing time-dependent 3-D global thermospheric models to significantly improve the realism of their representation and prediction of cusp/polar thermosphere disturbances to transient energy sources. We illustrate the concept with a sample model-run incorporating representative data.