Spatial, Seasonal, and Solar Cycle Variations of the Martian Total Electron Content (TEC): Is the TEC a Good Tracer for Atmospheric Cycles?

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Abstract

©2018. The Authors. We analyze 10 years of Mars Express total electron content (TEC) data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument. We describe the spatial, seasonal, and solar cycle behavior of the Martian TEC. Due to orbit evolution, data come mainly from the evening, dusk terminator and postdusk nightside. The annual TEC profile shows a peak at Ls = 25–75° which is not related to the solar irradiance variation but instead coincides with an increase in the thermospheric density, possibly linked with variations in the surface pressure produced by atmospheric cycles such as the CO2or water cycles. With the help of numerical modeling, we explore the contribution of the ion species to the TEC and the coupling between the thermosphere and ionosphere. These are the first observations which show that the TEC is a useful parameter, routinely measured by Mars Express, of the dynamics of the lower-upper atmospheric coupling and can be used as tracer for the behavior of the thermosphere.

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Sánchez-Cano, B., Lester, M., Witasse, O., Blelly, P. L., Indurain, M., Cartacci, M., … Noschese, R. (2018). Spatial, Seasonal, and Solar Cycle Variations of the Martian Total Electron Content (TEC): Is the TEC a Good Tracer for Atmospheric Cycles? Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 123(7), 1746–1759. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005626

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