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Analysis of 3D kinetic simulations of meteor trails
  • Liane Kathryn Tarnecki,
  • Meers M. Oppenheim
Liane Kathryn Tarnecki
University of Colorado Boulder

Corresponding Author:liane.tarnecki@colorado.edu

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Meers M. Oppenheim
Boston University
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Radars detect plasma trails created by the billions of small meteors that impact the Earth’s atmosphere daily, returning data used to infer characteristics of the meteoroid population and upper atmosphere. Researchers use models to investigate the dynamic evolution of the trails, enabling them to better interpret radar results. This paper presents a fully kinetic, 3D code to explore the impacts of three trail characteristics: length, neutral wind speed, and ablation altitude. The simulations characterize the turbulence that develops as the trail evolves and these are compared to radar data. They also show that neutral winds drive the formation of waves and turbulence in trails, and that wave amplitudes increase with neutral wind speed. The finite trail simulations demonstrate that the bulk motion of the trail flows with the neutral wind. A detailed analysis of simulated trail spectra yield spectral widths, and evaluate signal strength as a function of aspect angle. Waves propagate primarily along the length of the trail in all cases, and most power is in modes perpendicular to $\mathit{\vec{B}}$. Persistent waves develop at wavelengths corresponding to the gradient scale length of the original trail. Our results show that the rate at which power drops with respect to aspect angle in meter-scale modes increases from $5.7$ dB/degree to $6.9$ dB/degree with a 15 km increase in altitude. The results will allow researchers to draw more detailed and accurate information from non-specular radar observations of meteors.
Aug 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 126 issue 8. 10.1029/2020JA028889