Direct measurements of nighttime thermospheric winds and temperatures, 3. Monthly variations during solar minimum


  • G. Hernandez,

  • R. G. Roble


We used a high-resolution Fabry-Perot spectrometer at Fritz Peak Observatory (39.9°N, 105.5°W) to determine the nighttime variation of thermospheric temperatures and winds from the line profiles and Doppler shifts of the O I 15,867-K (6300 Å) line emission. With data obtained during the period April 1975 through March 1976 we examined the variation of the nighttime neutral gas temperature, zonal winds, and meridional winds at F layer heights throughout the year during solar cycle minimum. We compare our observed temperatures to predictions made by the MSIS (mass spectrometer and incoherent scatter) empirical model of neutral temperature and composition in the thermosphere. The calculated nighttime variation of thermospheric temperature is about 100°–150°K lower than measurements for summer and equinox months and about 50°–75°K lower than measurements for winter months. We compare the observed winds to the zonal and meridional winds, which we calculate from a three-dimensional semiempirical dynamic model of the thermosphere by using the pressure gradients specified by the MSIS model. The calculated nighttime winds are in general agreement with observed winds; both reveal a systematic monthly variation during geomagnetic quiet times. The nighttime equatorward meridional winds are greater in summer than in winter. The zonal winds are eastward throughout most of the night during winter; however, as the season progresses toward summer, a transition develops in the early morning hours from eastward to westward winds. This transition occurs earlier in the night as summer approaches. We use model predictions of the diurnal variations of winds and temperatures to calculate diurnal averages of the zonal and meridional wind components over Fritz Peak Observatory. The seasonal variation of these zonal mean values is presented.