Observation of nighttime medium-scale travelling ionospheric disturbances by two 630-nm airglow imagers near the auroral zone

K. Shiokawa, M. Mori, Y. Otsuka, S. Oyama, S. Nozawa, S. Suzuki, M. Connors

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This is the first statistical study of high-latitude nighttime medium-scale traveling ionospheric disturbances (MSTIDs) observed by all-sky airglow imagers in the European and Canadian longitudinal sectors. We investigate the MSTIDs observed in the 630-nm airglow imagers at Tromsø (magnetic latitude: 67.1°N), Norway, for two winters, and at Athabasca (61.7°N), Canada, for 2 years. At both stations, the MSTIDs were observed mostly before midnight with an occurrence rate of more than 50% of clear observation hours at Tromsø and ~30 % at Athabasca. The average wavelengths, phase velocities, and periods of the observed MSTIDs were 150-200. km, 50-80. m/s, and 30-60. min, respectively. We found that MSTIDs at Tromsø tend to show eastward motion in addition to the typical westward and southwestward motion at middle latitudes. At Athabasca, westward and southwestward motions prevail except for the summer when characteristic northward-moving MSTIDs with larger wavelengths and faster phase velocities were observed. At both stations, some MSTIDs showed characteristic changes of their phase velocity and directions in association with auroral activity, suggesting that they are plasma structures affected by auroral electric field. Vertical wavelengths of gravity waves were estimated by using simultaneous thermospheric wind data obtained at Tromsø, showing that most of these MSTIDs can exist as gravity waves in the thermosphere. On the basis of these results, we conclude that the high-latitude nighttime MSTIDs are caused mainly by the Perkins and E-F coupling instabilities similar to those at middle latitudes and that an additional source by atmospheric gravity waves from lower altitudes also comes into play.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-194
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Publication statusPublished - Oct. 2013


  • Airglow imaging
  • Ionosphere
  • Medium-scale traveling ionospheric disturbances
  • Subauroral latitudes


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