Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Jeffrey M. Forbes

Second Advisor

Maura E. Hagan

Third Advisor

Jeffrey P. Thayer

Fourth Advisor

Scott E. Palo

Fifth Advisor

Cora E. Randall


In a society increasingly dependent on space technology, space weather has become a prominent scientific paradigm. In the last decade evidence has shown that terrestrial weather significantly influences space weather. Periodic absorption of solar radiation in local time and longitude by tropospheric water vapor and stratospheric ozone as well as latent heat release in clouds generate a spatially- and temporally-evolving spectrum of global-scale atmospheric waves (i.e., tides, planetary waves and Kelvin waves). A subset of these waves propagates vertically, evolving with height due to wave-mean flow, wave-wave, and wave-plasma interactions, and driving electric fields of tidal origin in the dynamo region. While considerable improvements have been made on the understanding of MLT dynamics, driven in part by the development and deployment of new instruments and techniques, relatively little is known about the coupling of waves in the 120-300 km `thermospheric gap' between satellite remote-sensing and in-situ wave diagnostics. The dissertation herein reveals vertical wave coupling in this height region and quantifies its role in determining thermospheric variability. This objective is accomplished employing quasi-Sun-synchronous satellite measurements (i.e., TIMED, CHAMP, and GOCE) and state-of-the-art numerical modeling simulations (i.e., TIME-GCM/MERRA). Evidence is found for the vertical propagation from the lower to the middle thermosphere of the eastward propagating diurnal tide with zonal wave number 3 (DE3) and the 3-day ultra-fast Kelvin wave (UFKW), two major global-scale atmospheric oscillations of tropospheric origin. These waves are shown to nonlinearly interact and produce secondary waves responsible for significant longitudinal and day-to-day variability. For solar and geomagnetic quiet conditions, atmospheric waves are found to be responsible for up to 60% of the total variability, demonstrating lower atmosphere coupling as a key contributor to thermosphere weather, at least in the absence of major solar-driven variability. Additionally, background atmospheric conditions (i.e., dissipation and zonal mean winds) and found to significantly impact the latitudinal-temporal evolution of upward propagating waves.