Gravity waves near 300 km over the polar caps


  • F. S. Johnson,

  • W. B. Hanson,

  • R. R. Hodges,

  • W. R. Coley,

  • G. R. Carignan,

  • N. W. Spencer


Distinctive wave forms in the distributions of vertical velocity and temperature of both neutral particles and ions are frequently observed from Dynamics Explorer 2 at altitudes above 250 km over the polar caps. These are interpreted as being due to internal gravity waves propagating in the neutral atmosphere. The disturbances are characterized by vertical velocity perturbations of the order of 100 m/s and horizontal wave lengths along the satellite path of about 500 km. They often extend across the entire polar cap. The associated temperature perturbations indicate that the horizontal phase progression is from the nightside to the dayside. Vertical displacements are inferred to be of the order of 10 km and the periods to be of the order of 10³ s. The waves must propagate in the neutral atmosphere, but they usually are most clearly recognizable in the observations of ion vertical velocity and ion temperature. By combining the neutral pressure calculated from the observed neutral concentration and temperature with the vertical component of the neutral velocity, an upward energy flux of the order of 0.04 erg/cm²-s at 250 km has been calculated, which is about equal to the maximum total solar ultraviolet heat input above that altitude. Upward energy fluxes calculated from observations on orbital passes at altitudes from 250 to 560 km indicate relatively little attenuation with altitude.