This study is focused on the effect of solar flux conditions on the dynamics of gravity waves (GWs) in the thermosphere. Air density and crosswind in situ estimates from the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) accelerometers are analyzed for the whole mission duration. The analysis is performed in the Fourier spectral domain averaging spectral results over periods of 2 months close to solstices. A new GW marker (called C3 f) is introduced here to characterize GWs activity under low, medium, and high solar flux conditions, showing a clear solar damping effect on GW activity. Most GW signal is found in a spectral range above 8 mHz in GOCE data, meaning a maximum horizontal wavelength of around 1000 km. The level of GW activity at GOCE altitude is strongly decreasing with increasing solar flux. Furthermore, a shift in the dominant frequency with solar flux conditions has been noted, leading to larger horizontal wavelengths (from 200 to 500 km) during high solar flux conditions. The correlation between air density variability and GW marker allows to identify most of the large-amplitude perturbations below 67° latitudes as due to GWs. The influence of correlated error sources, between air density and crosswinds, is discussed. Consistency of the spectral domain results is verified in the time domain with a global mapping of high-frequency air density perturbations along the GOCE orbit. This analysis shows a clear dependence with geomagnetic latitude with strong perturbations at magnetic poles and an extension to lower latitudes favored by low solar activity conditions. These results are consistent with previous Challenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) data analysis and with general circulation models.
- gravity waves