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Mechanisms Underlying The Prereversal Enhancement Of The Vertical Plasma Drift In The Low-latitude Ionosphere

J. Eccles, J. St.-Maurice, R. Schunk
Published 2015 · Geology

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The evening prereversal enhancement (PRE) of the vertical plasma drift has important consequences for the Appleton density anomaly and the stability of the nighttime ionosphere. Simplified simulations were used to review the three competing theories of the PRE origin, to explore their relative importance, and to indentify their interdependence. The mechanisms involved in the generation and climatology of the PRE are, first, a curl-free electric field response to rapid changes in the vertical electric field associated with the nighttime F region dynamo; second, a divergence of Hall currents in the E region away from the magnetic equator; and, third, the moderating effect of the large Cowling conductivities in the equatorial E region. The simulations indicate that the equatorial Cowling conductivity creates an important current path that limits the other two mechanisms prior to equatorial sunset and releases them after equatorial sunset. The curl-free mechanism is the dominant mechanism when the terminator and magnetic meridian are aligned in part due to the accelerating F region zonal wind. When the solar terminator is not aligned with the magnetic meridian, there is an interaction involving all three mechanisms contributing to the magnitude and timing of the PRE. Finally, the altitude profile of the PRE decays more quickly with altitude when the curl-free mechanism dominates as compared to when the Hall current mechanism dominates.
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