Dayside Upper-Thermospheric Density Fluctuations as Observed by GRACE and GRACE-FO at ∼500 km Height

Jaeheung Park*, Jose van den IJssel, Christian Siemes

*Corresponding author for this work

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We statistically investigate fluctuation amplitudes (normalized to the background values) of dayside low-/mid-latitude upper-thermospheric mass density as observed by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE-Follow-On (GRACE-FO) spacecraft at ∼500 km altitude between 2002 and 2022. There are three new findings in our results. First, the climatology closely replicates previous studies on stratospheric and upper-thermospheric gravity waves (GWs) below the GRACE(-FO) altitudes. For example, in low-latitude regions, the fluctuations are stronger above continents than in the oceanic area. Mid-latitude fluctuations prefer the local winter hemisphere to the summer, and the South American/Atlantic region in June solstice hosts stronger fluctuations than in any other low-/mid-latitude locations or seasons. Fluctuations are more intense under lower solar activity. The above-mentioned consistency of the GRACE(-FO) results with previous lower-altitude GW studies confirms that GWs can penetrate up to 500 km. Second, the anti-correlation of upper-thermospheric GW with solar activity, which has been earlier reported for multi-year time scales, can also be identified on the scale of the solar rotation period (∼27 days). Third, we demonstrate asymmetry between pre-noon and post-noon GWs. The former exhibits stronger GW activity, which may result from the colder thermosphere being more favorable for intense mass density fluctuations via secondary/tertiary GW generation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JA030976
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • accelerometer
  • gravity wave
  • upper thermosphere


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