Y. Ma, X. Fang, A. Nagy
Feb 1, 2014
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
As a weakly magnetized planet, Mars ionosphere/atmosphere interacts directly with the shocked solar wind plasma flow. Even though many numerical studies have been successful in reproducing numerous features of the interaction process, these earlier studies focused mainly on interaction under steady solar wind conditions. Recent observations suggest that plasma escape fluxes are significantly enhanced in response to solar wind dynamic pressure pulses. In this study, we focus on the response of the ionosphere to pressure enhancements in the solar wind. Through modeling of two idealized events using a magnetohydrodynamics model, we find that the upper ionosphere of Mars responds almost instantaneously to solar wind pressure enhancements, while the collision dominated lower ionosphere (below ~150 km) does not have noticeable changes in density. We also find that ionospheric perturbations in density, magnetic field, and velocity can last more than an hour after the solar wind returns to the quiet conditions. The topside ionosphere forms complicated transient shapes in response, which may explain unexpected ionospheric behaviors in recent observations. We also find that ionospheric escape fluxes do not correlate directly with simultaneous solar wind dynamic pressure. Rather, their intensities also depend on the earlier solar wind conditions. It takes a few hours for the ionospheric/atmospheric system to reach a new quasi‐equilibrium state.