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  1. Winds in the nighttime upper thermosphere are often observed to mimic the ionospheric plasma convection at polar latitudes, and whether the same is true for the daytime winds remains unclear. The dayside sector is subject to large temperature gradient set up by solar irradiance and it also contains the cusp, which is a hotspot of Poynting flux and a region with the strongest soft particle precipitation. We examine daytime winds using a Scanning Doppler Imager (SDI) located at the South Pole, and investigate their distribution under steadily positive and negative IMF Byconditions. The results show that daytime winds exhibit significant differences from the plasma convection. Under negative IMF Byconditions, winds flow in the same direction as the plasma zonally, but have a meridional component that is strongest in the auroral zone. As a result, winds are more poleward-directed than the plasma convection within the auroral zone, and more westward-directed in the polar cap. Under positive IMF Byconditions, winds can flow zonally against the plasma in certain regions. For instance, they flow westward in the polar cap despite the eastward plasma convection there, forming a large angle relative to the plasma convection. The results indicate that ion drag may not be the most dominant force for daytime winds. Although the importance of various forcing terms cannot be resolved with the utilized dataset, we speculate that the pressure gradient force in the presence of cusp heating serves as one important contributor.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 10, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 23, 2024
  3. The Earth’s upper atmosphere (85–550 km) is the nearest region of geospace and is highly dynamic in nature. Neutral winds impact a large portion of the dynamics in this region. They play a critical role in determining the state of the ionosphere-thermosphere system at almost all latitudes and altitudes. Their influences range from wave breaking/dissipation in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere to global redistribution of energy and momentum deposited at high latitudes by the magnetosphere. Despite their known importance, global geospace neutral winds have remained one of the least sampled state parameters of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and are still poorly characterized even after multiple decades of observations. This paper presents an overview of historical neutral wind measurements and the critical need for their global height-resolved measurements. Some satellite missions are still operational and deliver valuable information on the contribution of neutral winds in global atmospheric dynamics. However, many significant gaps remain in their global monitoring, and our current understanding of the drivers of neutral winds is incomplete. We discuss the challenges posed by these measurement gaps in understanding geospace physics and weather. Further, we propose some wind observation solutions, including the simultaneous operations of upcoming NASA DYNAMIC and GDC missions as well as support for the development of ground-based observing methodologies, that will lead to fundamental advances in geospace science and address humanity’s emerging space needs. 
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  4. Abstract

    This paper investigates the lower‐to‐upper atmosphere coupling at high latitudes (>60°N) during the northern winter months of 2012–2013 years, which includes a period of major Sudden “Stratospheric” Warming (SSW). We perform statistical analysis of thermosphere wind disturbances with periods of 30–70 min, known as the medium scale traveling atmospheric disturbances (MSTADs) in atomic oxygen green line (557.7 nm) near ∼120 km and red line (630.0 nm) emissions near ∼250 km observed from Scanning Doppler Imagers (SDIs) over Alaska. The SDI MSTADs observations (60°–75°N) are interpreted in conjunction with the previous daytime medium‐scale traveling ionospheric disturbance (MSTID) observations by SuperDARN midlatitudes (35°–65°N) radars in theF‐region ionosphere and western hemisphere, which confirm findings from the SDI instruments. Increases in MSTAD activity from SDIs show correlations with the increasing meridional planetary wave (PW) amplitudes in the stratosphere derived from MERRA2 winds. Furthermore, a detailed study of the lower atmospheric conditions from MERRA2 winds indicates that the lower atmospheric sources of MSTADs are likely due to the stratospheric generated Gravity Waves (GWs) and not orographic GWs. Favorable stratospheric propagation conditions and polar vortex disturbances resulting from the increased PW activity in the stratospheric region both appear to contribute to increased MSTAD activity in the thermosphere. Additionally, the results show that the MSTID activity from SuperDARN HF radars at mid latitudes during the January 2013 SSW is lower than the MSTAD activity in SDI winds at high latitudes.

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  5. Abstract

    Few remote sensing or in‐situ techniques can measure winds in Earth's thermosphere between altitudes of 120 and 200 km. One possible approach within this region uses Doppler spectroscopy of the optical emission from atomic oxygen at 558 nm, although historical approaches have been hindered in the auroral zone because the emission altitude varies dramatically, both across the sky and over time, as a result of changing characteristic energy of auroral precipitation. Thus, a new approach is presented that instead uses this variation as an advantage, to resolve height profiles of the horizontal wind. Emission heights are estimated using the Doppler temperature derived from the 558 nm emission. During periods when the resulting estimates span a wide enough height interval, it is possible to use low order polynomial functions of altitude to model the Doppler shifts observed across the sky and over time, and thus reconstruct height profiles of the horizontal wind components. The technique introduced here is shown to work well provided there are no strong horizontal gradients in the wind field. Conditions satisfying these caveats do occur frequently and the resulting wind profiles validate well when compared to absolute in‐situ wind measurements from a rocket‐borne chemical release. While both the optical and chemical tracer techniques agreed with each other, they did not agree with the HWM‐14 horizontal wind model. Applying this technique to wind measurements near the geomagnetic cusp footprint indicated that cusp‐region forcing did not penetrate to atmospheric heights of 240 km or lower.

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  6. Abstract

    This study presents multi‐instrument observations of persistent large‐scale traveling ionosphere/atmospheric disturbances (LSTIDs/LSTADs) observed during moderately increased auroral electrojet activity and a sudden stratospheric warming in the polar winter hemisphere. The Global Ultraviolet Imager (GUVI), Gravity field and steady‐state Ocean Circulation Explorer, Scanning Doppler Imaging Fabry–Perot Interferometers, and the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar are used to demonstrate the presence of LSTIDs/LSTADs between 19 UT and 5 UT on 18–19 January 2013 over the Alaska region down to lower midlatitudes. This study showcases the first use of GUVI for the study of LSTADs. These novel GUVI observations demonstrate the potential for the GUVI far ultraviolet emissions to be used for global‐scale studies of waves and atmospheric disturbances in the thermosphere, a region lacking in long‐term global measurements. These observations typify changes in the radiance from around 140 to 180 km, opening a new window into the behavior of the thermosphere.

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  7. Abstract

    During magnetospheric substorms, high‐latitude ionospheric plasma convection is known to change dramatically. How upper thermospheric winds change, however, has not been well understood, and conflicting conclusions have been reported. Here, we study the effect of substorms on high‐latitude upper thermospheric winds by taking advantage of a chain of scanning Doppler imagers (SDIs), THEMIS all‐sky imagers (ASIs), and the Poker Flat incoherent scatter radar (PFISR). SDIs provide mosaics of wind dynamics in response to substorms in two dimensions in space and as a function of time, while ASIs and PFISR concurrently monitor auroral emissions and ionospheric parameters. During the substorm growth phase, the classical two‐cell global circulation of neutral winds intensifies. After substorm onset, the zonal component of these winds is strongly suppressed in the midnight sector, whereas away from the midnight sector two‐cell circulation of winds is enhanced. Both pre and postonset enhancements are ≥100 m/s above the quiet‐time value, and postonset enhancement occurs over a broader latitude and local‐time area than preonset enhancement. The meridional wind component in the midnight and postmidnight sectors is accelerated southward to subauroral latitudes. Our findings suggest that substorms significantly modify the upper‐thermospheric wind circulation by changing the wind direction and speed and therefore are important for the entire magnetosphere‐ionosphere‐thermosphere system.

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  8. Abstract

    Intense sunward (westward) plasma flows, named Subauroral Polarization Stream (SAPS), have been known to occur equatorward of the electron auroras for decades, yet their effect on the upper thermosphere has not been well understood. On the one hand, the large velocity of SAPS results in large momentum exchange upon each ion‐neutral collision. On the other hand, the low plasma density associated with SAPS implies a low ion‐neutral collision frequency. We investigate the SAPS effect during non‐storm time by utilizing a Scanning Doppler Imager (SDI) for monitoring the upper thermosphere, SuperDARN radars for SAPS, all‐sky imagers and DMSP Spectrographic Imager for the auroral oval, and GPS receivers for the total electron content. Our observations suggest that SAPS at times drives substantial (>50 m/s) westward winds at subauroral latitudes in the dusk‐midnight sector, but not always. The occurrence of the westward winds varies withAEindex, plasma content in the trough, and local time. The latitudinally averaged wind speed varies from 60 to 160 m/s, and is statistically 21% of the plasma. These westward winds also shift to lower latitude with increasingAEand increasing MLT. We do not observe SAPS driving poleward wind surges, neutral temperature enhancements, or acoustic‐gravity waves, likely due to the somewhat weak forcing of SAPS during the non‐storm time.

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  9. Abstract

    This study explores intra‐annual oscillations (IAOs) in upper thermospheric winds using GOCE cross‐track wind measurements between 70°S and 70°N. Due to the Sun‐synchronous dawn‐dusk orbit of GOCE, the cross‐contamination between seasonality and local time variations in winds is minimal, which makes it a unique space‐based data set to extract IAOs and study their latitudinal variation. Our analysis reveals that the annual (AO), semiannual (SAO), and terannual (TAO) oscillations are robust features in thermospheric winds. The AO is strongest at middle latitudes; SAO and TAO amplitudes increase with increasing latitude. The latitudinally averaged amplitudes of the AO, SAO, and TAO for dusk/dawn are 30.0/35.0, 8.5/11.3, and 6.0/6.6 m/s, respectively. The phase of AO reverses around the equator. SAO and TAO phases vary with latitude but do not reverse like the AO. For both the SAO and TAO, the average phase at dusk and dawn differs by30 days.

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