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Suprathermal electron moments in the ionosphere

By Hanane Marif and Jean Lilensten

Abstract

International audienceThe ionospheric electron population is divided into two groups. The ambient electrons are thermalized. Their energy is usually smaller than one electron volt. Their densities and temperatures are the usual ones measured by incoherent scatter radars, or modeled by international codes such as International Reference Ionosphere (IRI). There is however a second population called the suprathermal electrons. This one is either due to photoionization or to electron impact between the thermosphere and the precipitation in the high latitude zone. In the frame of space weather, it may be the source of scintillations, plasma bulks and other physical phenomena. The suprathermal electron population can only indirectly be measured through the plasmaline and had never been modeled. Its modeling requires the computation of the electron stationary flux by solving the Boltzmann transport equation. This flux is multiplied by various powers of the velocity v and integrated to obtain the different order moments. By integrating f over v0dv, one deduces the suprathermal electron density. An integration of v1fdv allows the computation of their mean velocity. Higher moments give access to their temperature and finally to their heat flux. In this work, we demonstrate for the first time the full and rigorous calculation of the ionospheric electron moments up to three. As two case studies, we focus on high latitude in the auroral oval and low magnetic latitude over Algiers for different solar and geophysical conditions. We compare the suprathermal densities and temperatures to the thermal electron parameters. Our results highlight that – as expected – the suprathermal density is small compared to the thermal one. Although it is close to 3 × 103 m−3 at 180 km during the day, it drops drastically at night, to hardly reach 3 m−3. Contrarily to the density, the velocity is about 10 times more important during the nighttime when precipitation occurs than during the daytime under the electromagnetic solar flux. At 400 km, it varies during the day between 700,000 m s−1 (active solar conditions) and 900,000 m s−1 (quiet Sun). At night, the velocity varies between 3 × 106 m s−1 (low mean energy precipitation) and 3 × 107 m s−1 (high mean energy precipitation) at 400 km. The suprathermal temperature increases as the solar activity decreases or as the mean energy of the electron precipitation increases. It may reach values close to 3 × 108 K. The heat flux may be fully oriented downward or experiences a reversal with some flux going up depending on the forcing

Topics: Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Suprathermal particle, Boltzmann moments, [PHYS.ASTR]Physics [physics]/Astrophysics [astro-ph]
Publisher: 'EDP Sciences'
Year: 2020
DOI identifier: 10.1051/swsc/2020021
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-02904021v1
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