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  1. Space weather, including solar storms, can impact Earth by disturbing the geomagnetic field. Despite the known dependence of birds and other animals on geomagnetic cues for successful seasonal migrations, the potential effects of space weather on organisms that use Earth’s magnetic field for navigation have received little study. We tested whether space weather geomagnetic disturbances are associated with disruptions to bird migration at a macroecological scale. We leveraged long-term radar data to characterize the nightly migration dynamics of the nocturnally migrating North American avifauna over 22 y. We then used concurrent magnetometer data to develop a local magnetic disturbance index associated with each radar station (ΔBmax), facilitating spatiotemporally explicit analyses of the relationship between migration and geomagnetic disturbance. After controlling for effects of atmospheric weather and spatiotemporal patterns, we found a 9 to 17% decrease in migration intensity in both spring and fall during severe space weather events. During fall migration, we also found evidence for decreases in effort flying against the wind, which may represent a depression of active navigation such that birds drift more with the wind during geomagnetic disturbances. Effort flying against the wind in the fall was most reduced under both overcast conditions and high geomagnetic disturbance, suggesting that a combination of obscured celestial cues and magnetic disturbance may disrupt navigation. Collectively, our results provide evidence for community-wide avifaunal responses to geomagnetic disturbances driven by space weather during nocturnal migration.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 17, 2024
  2. Abstract

    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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