Modeling study of the ionospheric responses to the quasi-biennial oscillations of the sun and stratosphere

Jack C. Wang, Rong Tsai-Lin, Loren C. Chang, Qian Wu, Charles C.H. Lin, Jia Yue

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5 Scopus citations


The Quasi-biennial Oscillation (QBO) is a persistent oscillation in the zonal mean zonal winds of the low latitude middle atmosphere that is driven by breaking planetary and gravity waves with a period near two years. The atmospheric tides that dominate the dynamics of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere region (MLT, between heights of 70–120 km) are excited in the troposphere and stratosphere, and propagate through QBO-modulated zonal mean zonal wind fields. This allows the MLT tidal response to also be modulated by the QBO, with implications for ionospheric/thermospheric variability. Interannual oscillations in solar radiation can also directly drive the variations in the ionosphere with similar periodicities through the photoionization. Many studies have observed the connection between the solar activity and QBO signal in ionospheric features such as total electron content (TEC). In this research, we develop an empirical model to isolate stratospheric QBO-related tidal variability in the MLT diurnal and semidiurnal tides using values from assimilated TIMED satellite data. Migrating tidal fields corresponding to stratospheric QBO eastward and westward phases, as well as with the quasi-biennial variations in solar activity isolated by the Multi-dimensional Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition (MEEMD) analysis from Hilbert-Huang Transform (HHT), are then used to drive the NCAR Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIE-GCM). The numerical experiment results indicate that the ionospheric QBO is mainly driven by the solar quasi-biennial variations during the solar maximum, since the solar quasi-biennial variation amplitude is directly proportionate to the solar cycle. The ionospheric QBO in the model is sensitive to both the stratospheric QBO and solar quasi-biennial variations during the solar minimum, with solar effects still playing a stronger role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Ionosphere
  • QBO
  • Quasi-biennial oscillation


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