Improving ionospheric predictability requires accurate simulation of the mesospheric polar vortex

V. Lynn Harvey, Cora E. Randall, Scott M. Bailey, Erich Becker, Jorge L. Chau, Chihoko Y. Cullens, Larisa P. Goncharenko, Larry L. Gordley, Neil P. Hindley, Ruth S. Lieberman, Han Li Liu, Linda Megner, Scott E. Palo, Nicholas M. Pedatella, David E. Siskind, Fabrizio Sassi, Anne K. Smith, Gunter Stober, Claudia Stolle, Jia Yue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


The mesospheric polar vortex (MPV) plays a critical role in coupling the atmosphere-ionosphere system, so its accurate simulation is imperative for robust predictions of the thermosphere and ionosphere. While the stratospheric polar vortex is widely understood and characterized, the mesospheric polar vortex is much less well-known and observed, a short-coming that must be addressed to improve predictability of the ionosphere. The winter MPV facilitates top-down coupling via the communication of high energy particle precipitation effects from the thermosphere down to the stratosphere, though the details of this mechanism are poorly understood. Coupling from the bottom-up involves gravity waves (GWs), planetary waves (PWs), and tidal interactions that are distinctly different and important during weak vs. strong vortex states, and yet remain poorly understood as well. Moreover, generation and modulation of GWs by the large wind shears at the vortex edge contribute to the generation of traveling atmospheric disturbances and traveling ionospheric disturbances. Unfortunately, representation of the MPV is generally not accurate in state-of-the-art general circulation models, even when compared to the limited observational data available. Models substantially underestimate eastward momentum at the top of the MPV, which limits the ability to predict upward effects in the thermosphere. The zonal wind bias responsible for this missing momentum in models has been attributed to deficiencies in the treatment of GWs and to an inaccurate representation of the high-latitude dynamics. In the coming decade, simulations of the MPV must be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1041426
JournalFrontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Grant Nos 80NSSC18K1046, 80NSSC190262, 80NSSC19K0834, 80NSSC20K0628, 80NSSC21K0002, 80NSSC22K1074, and 80NSSC22K0017) and the National Science Foundation (grant AGS 1651428). This material is based upon work supported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is a major facility sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement 1852977. High-end computing resources were provided by NASA to run WACCMX + DART on the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Ames research center.


  • atmosphere-ionosphere coupling
  • energetic electron precipitation (EEP)
  • gravity wave parameterization
  • mesospheric winds
  • polar vortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving ionospheric predictability requires accurate simulation of the mesospheric polar vortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this