Climatology and Characteristics of Medium-Scale F-region Ionospheric Plasma Irregularities Observed by COSMIC Radio Occultation Receivers

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Medium-scale ionospheric ionization structures are a persistent global feature of the earth’s ionosphere.

COSMIC GPS radio occultation observations image
COSMIC GPS radio occultation observations of irregularity occurrence rate plotted in geographic coordinates for 2008-2009 and 2012-2013, around (a) December solstice, (b) March equinox, (c) June solstice, and (d) September equinox. White solid lines show 0° MLAT, and dashed lines are ±25° MLAT.

Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) radio occultation measurements are well suited to address the incomplete global observational picture of plasma density irregularities, including the global climatology in both bottomside and topside F-region layers, and their structure in the vertical dimension. A climatological database of F-region ionospheric irregularities and their characteristics has been developed through detection of total electron content (TEC) perturbations by Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers onboard COSMIC satellites.

This paper presents global occurrence rates and detailed characteristics of equatorial to mid-latitude medium-scale irregularities under quiet geomagnetic conditions. The study covers four years, two during solar minimum (2008-2009) and two during the ascending phase of solar cycle 24 (2012-2013). Irregularities were found to occur frequently at high latitudes, and during nighttime in equatorial to mid-latitude regions in both bottom and topside F-region layers. Longitudinal-seasonal occurrence trends at equatorial and mid-latitudes are consistent with previous irregularity climatology, which reaffirms that localized enhancements in plasma instability growth rates contribute to irregularity occurrence. Seasonal occurrence patterns also indicate a high occurrence of irregularities in regions corresponding to the solar terminator, confined primarily to altitudes below ~300 km. The local time-altitude distributions of equatorial and mid-latitude irregularity occurrence, amplitude, and scale size provide further insight into irregularity generation mechanisms, and include features consistent with “spread-F” irregularities and traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs).

Publication Name: Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics

First HAO Author's Name: Nick Pedatella