Investigation of the causes of the longitudinal variation of the electron density in the Weddell Sea Anomaly

P. G. Richards, R. R. Meier, Shih Ping Chen, D. P. Drob, P. Dandenault

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This paper investigates and quantifies the causes of the Weddell Sea Anomaly (WSA), a region near the tip of South America extending from approximately 30° to 120°W geographic longitude and 50° to 75°S geographic latitude at solar minimum between 2007 and 2010. This region is unusual because the midnight peak electron density exceeds the midday peak electron density in summer. This study is far more quantitative than previous studies because, unlike other models, it assimilates selected data parameters to constrain a physical model in order to investigate other aspects of the data. It is shown that the commonly accepted explanation that the WSA is related to the magnetic field declination and inclination effects on the neutral wind does not explain the longitudinal variation of the electron density. Rather, longitudinal changes in the neutral winds and neutral densities are the most likely explanation for the WSA. These longitudinal wind and density changes are attributed to the varying latitudinal distance from the auroral zone energy input. No contributions from the plasmasphere or other sources are required. Furthermore, it is shown that a widely used empirical thermosphere density model overestimates the longitudinal changes in the WSA region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6562-6583
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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