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MGS Radio Science Electron Density Profiles: Interannual Variability and Implications for the Martian Neutral AtmosphereMartian electron density profiles provided by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Radio Science (RS) experiment over the 95-200 km altitude range indicate what the height of the electron peak and the longitudinal structure of the peak height are sensitive indicators of the physical state of the Mars lower and upper atmospheres. The present analysis is carried out on five sets of occultation profiles, all at high solar zenith angles (SZA). Variations spanning 2 Martian years are investigated near aphelion conditions at high northern latitudes (64.7 - 77.6 N) making use of four of these data sets. A mean ionospheric peak height of 133.5 - 135 km is obtained near SZA = 78 - 82 deg.; a corresponding mean peak density of 7.3 - 8.5 x l0(exp 4)/ qu cm is also measured during solar moderate conditions at Mars. Strong wave number 2 - 3 oscillations in peak heights are consistently observed as a function of longitude over the 2 Martian years. These observed ionospheric features are remarkably similar during aphelion conditions 1 Martian year apart. This year-to-year repeatability in the thermosphere-ionosphere structure is consistent with that observed in multiyear aphelion temperature data of the Mars lower atmosphere. Coupled Mars general circulation model (MGCM) and Mars thermospheric general circulation model (MTGCM) codes are run for Mars aphelion conditions, yielding mean and longitude variable ionospheric peak heights that reasonably match RS observations. A tidal decomposition of MTGCM thermospheric densities shows that observed ionospheric wave number 3 features are linked to a non-migrating tidal mode with semidiurnal period (sigma = 2) and zonal wave number 1 (s = -1) characteristics. The height of this photochemically determined ionospheric peak should be monitored regularly.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Bougher, S. W. (Michigan Univ. Ann Arbor, MI, United States)
Engel, S. (Arizona Univ. Tucson, AZ, United States)
Hinson, D. P. (Stanford Univ. Stanford, CA, United States)
Murphy, J. R. (New Mexico State Univ. Las Cruces, NM, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
March 25, 2004
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 109
Issue: E3
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits