The dayside high-latitude trough is a persistent feature of the post-noon wintertime auroral ionosphere. Radio tomography observations have been used to map its location and latitudinal structure under quiet geomagnetic conditions (Kp≤2) near winter solstice. The trough is also a clear feature in the ion density distribution of the Coupled Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Plasmasphere model (CTIP) under similar geophysical conditions. Comparisons of the measured and modelled distributions show that the plasma production equatorward of the trough is mainly controlled by solar radiation, but there are also other processes maintaining the equatorward trough-wall that are open to debate. The poleward trough-wall is produced by particle precipitation, but the densities are significantly overestimated by the model. At the trough minimum the observed densities are consistent with low nighttime densities convecting sunward to displace the higher daytime densities, but this is not borne out by the CTIP model. The study shows the potential of combining radio tomography and modelling to interpret the balance of the physical processes responsible for large-scale structuring of the high-latitude ionosphere, and highlights the role of tomographic imaging in validating and developing physical models.