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Title: Midlatitude Sporadic E‐Layer Horizontal Structuring Modulated by Neutral Instability and Mixing in the Lower Thermosphere

Observations of 30‐MHz coherent backscatter from sporadic‐Eionization layers were obtained with a VHF imaging radar located in Ithaca, New York. The volume probed by the radar lies at relatively high magnetic latitudes, on the northern edge of the mid‐latitude region and underneath the ionospheric trough. Banded, quasi‐periodic (QP) echoes observed from Ithaca are similar to those found in lower midlatitude regions. The Doppler shifts observed are smaller and, so far, do not appear to reach the threshold for Farley‐Buneman instability. However, many of the echoes exhibit fine‐scale structure, with secondary bands or braids oriented obliquely to the primary bands. Secondary bands have been seen only rarely at lower middle latitudes. In previous observations, the QP scattering has been linked to unstable neutral wind shears. Neutral wind shear commonly found in the lower thermosphere could play a key role in the formation of these irregularities and explain some morphological features of the resulting plasma density irregularities and the radar echoes. We consider whether neutral instability and turbulence in the lower thermosphere is the likely cause for some of the structuring in the sporadic‐Elayers. Results of 3D numerical simulations of atmospheric dynamics in the mesosphere to lower thermosphere support the proposition. In particular, we focus on Ekman‐type instabilities that, like the more common Kelvin‐Helmholtz instabilities, are inflection point instabilities, although specifically associated with turning shears, and result in convective rolls aligned close to the mean wind direction, with smaller‐scale secondary waves aligned normal to the primary structures.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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