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We present data from nighttime sounding rocket flights in the low latitude E region. The payloads carried a sweeping Langmuir probe, a plasma impedance probe, and electric field probes. A detailed examination of the plasma density, temperature, and electric field measurements show two strong sporadic E (Es) layers with very high electron temperatures (∼1000 K) on each side of the upper layer. The lower layer was consistent with the presence of a strong zonal neutral wind shear. The upper layer was strongly influenced by the presence of a strongly negative vertical electric field, with zonal winds and their shears also contributing. A strong downward motion of the plasma from the combined action of the downward electric field and negative zonal wind advected the upper layer far below the region of maximum growth. We have attributed the more puzzling high electron temperatures to frictional heating from parallel currents and shown that the F region nighttime dynamo could easily generate the necessary parallel current densities (1 μA m−2) near the electron density troughs. The electron temperature was also elevated in the Es layers themselves, implying parallel current densities of the order of 15 μA m−2 around the Es peaks. Those parallel currents were attributed to strong Hall current divergences driven by the zonal electric field around the Es peaks.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics



American Geophysical Union

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