There is potential to improve Low Earth Orbit (LEO) density forecasts via better estimates of temperature in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Toward this goal, Ruan et al.  have developed an empirical upper atmospheric temperature model by combining many years of output from global simulations with the sparser satellite-based thermospheric density data observed during 2002-2009. The density data have been converted to approximate temperature measurements. This is a unique way to blend gridded, model data and limited observations to create a better-than-climatology forecast of the temperature distribution in the upper atmosphere. From the temperature field it will be possible to better estimate the atmospheric density the LEO satellites will encounter under different conditions, and ultimately to make better satellite drag forecast. The authors validate their model with satellite data that did not contribute to the study. Their new model recreates large- and medium-scale temperature features reported in other studies.
Citation: Ruan, H., Lei, J., Dou, X., Liu, S., & Aa, E. . An exospheric temperature model based on CHAMP observations and TIEGCM simulations. Space Weather, 16 https://doi.org/10.1002/2017SW001759
—Delores J. Knipp, Editor-in-Chief, Space Weather