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Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

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Many models of the thermosphere employ the one-gas approximation where the governing equations apply only to the total gas and the physical properties of the gas that depend on composition (mean molecular weight and specific heats) are height-dependent. It is further assumed that the physical properties of the gas are locally constant; thus motion-induced perturbations are nil. However, motion in a diffusively separated atmosphere perturbs local values of mean molecular weight and specific heats. These motion-induced changes are opposed by mutual diffusion of the constituent gases, which attempts to restore diffusive equilibrium. Assuming that composition is locally constant is equivalent to assuming that diffusion instantaneously damps the changes that winds attempt to produce. This is the limit of fast diffusion. In the limit of slow diffusion, gas properties are constant (conserved) following the motion but are perturbed locally by advection. An analysis of the static stability shows that composition effects significantly change the static stability, with greater changes for the slow-diffusion limit than for the fast-diffusion limit. We have used a one-gas full-wave model to examine the effects of wave-perturbed composition on gravity waves propagating through the lower thermosphere. We have augmented the conventional system (fixed gas properties) with predictive equations for composition-dependent gas properties. These equations include vertical advection and mutual diffusion. The latter is included in parameterized form as second-order scale-dependent diffusion. We have found that the fast diffusion implied by locally fixed properties has a significant effect on the dynamics. Predicted temperatures are larger for locally fixed composition than for conserved composition. The simulations with parameterized mutual diffusion gave results that are much closer to the results for conserved gas properties than for fixed properties. We found that the divergence between the fast and slow limits was greatest for fast waves and for colder thermospheres. This is because the propagation characteristics of fast waves are sensitive to changes in the static stability and because compositional gradients are stronger for colder thermospheres. We conclude that future models that use the one-gas approximation for fast waves in the lower thermosphere should include, at minimum, the simplification of conserved rather than fixed properties, especially for colder thermospheres.

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics



American Geophysical Union

Grant or Award Name

NASA NAG5-9193, NAG5-4528 and NSF ATM-9896276