Structures and energetics of the auroral upper atmosphere and ionosphere

Theme: Natural & Biological Hazards
Primary Supervisor:

Anasuya Aruliah

Physics and Astronomy, UCL

Project Description:

The UCL Atmospheric Physics Laboratory (APL) has a particular interest in the upper atmosphere near the magnetic poles. This is a highly dynamic region driven by the interaction of the turbulent solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field. We run a network of Fabry-Perot Interferometers (FPIs) in Scandinavia, within the Arctic Circle. We also have a global atmospheric circulation model: the Coupled Middle Atmosphere Thermosphere (CMAT2) model covering altitudes 15-500 km. The FPIs measure auroral emissions, known more commonly as the Northern Lights. We have provided FPI measurements to support rocket campaigns by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency amongst others. We offer fieldwork and modelling projects using data from FPIs, satellites, radars, and magnetometers. We belong to the international QB50 mission which recently launched 36 CubeSats to measure the poorly understood middle thermosphere (180-300 km altitude) while in freefall. CubeSats can be equivalent to meteorological weather balloons, since they are cheap enough to be released regularly to monitor the upper atmosphere. This will improve the predictive capability of the new UK Meteorological Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC). Further to this, over the last 15 years the interrelationship of the lower, middle and upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere has been recognised as vital to improving the accuracy of weather forecasting beyond a few days. The APL has been involved in collaborations with the UKMO and UK universities with the aim of raising the upper boundary of the Unified Model to create a UK Whole Atmosphere Model.

Policy Impact of Research:

We are involved collaborations in building a UK Whole Atmosphere Model to improve tropospheric weather forecasting and Space Weather prediction by investigating the coupling between the layers of the lower, middle and upper atmosphere. Space Weather affects, for example, ground-induced currents causing wear and tear in electricity grids, accuracy of satellite orbit prediction and signal strengths in telecommunications.

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