Theoretical study of the electron temperature in the high-latitude ionosphere for solar maximum and winter conditions


  • R. W. Schunk,

  • J. J. Sojka,

  • M. D. Bowline


The electron temperature (Te) variation in the high-latitude ionosphere at altitudes between 120 and 800 km has been modeled for solar maximum, winter solstice, and strong magnetic activity conditions. The calculated electron temperatures are consistent with the plasma densities and ion temperatures computed from a time-dependent ionospheric model. Heating rates for both solar EUV and auroral precipitation were included. In general, the predicted UT variation of the electron temperature that results from the displacement between the magnetic and geographic poles is only a few hundred degrees. However, in sunlit trough regions, Te hot spots develop, and these hot spots show a marked UT variation, by as much as 2500 K. The dominant parameter controlling the Te variation above 200 km is the magnetospheric heat flux into the ionosphere, which is essentially unknown. For realistic values of the magnetospheric heat flux, the maximum electron temperature ranges from 5000 to 10,000 K at 800 km. A magnetospheric heat flux is particularly effective in enhancing trough electron temperatures. In general, the electron heat flux at high altitudes is uniquely related to the electron temperature and gradient, except on auroral field lines where thermoelectric heat flow is important.