Date of Award:


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Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Bela Fejer


The plasma drifts or electric fields and their structures in the ionosphere affect the accuracy of the present-day space-based systems. For the first time, we have used ionospheric plasma drift data from Jicamarca radar measurements to study the climatology of altitudinal variations of vertical and zonal plasma drifts in low latitudes during daytime. We used data from 1998 to 2014 to derive these climatological values in bimonthly bins from 150 km to 600 km. For the vertical plasma drifts, we observed the drifts increasing with altitudes in the morning and slowly changing to drifts decreasing with altitude in the afternoon hours. The drifts change mostly linearly from E- to F-region altitudes except in the morning hours of May-June when the gradients are very small. The zonal drifts show a highly nonlinear increase in the westward drifts at the lower altitudes and then increase slowly at the higher altitudes. We see a break in the slopes at lower altitudes during the morning hours of March-April and May-June. The E-region zonal drifts, unlike vertical drifts, show a very large variability compared to F-region drifts. We also explored the altitudinal profiles of vertical drifts during late afternoon and evening hours when the electrodynamic properties in the ionosphere change rapidly. For the first time using drifts up to 2000 km, we have shown the drifts increase and decrease below and above the F-region peak before becoming height independent. These structures arise to satisfy the curl-free condition of electric fields in low latitudes. The altitudinal gradients of vertical drifts are balanced by a time derivative of the zonal drifts to satisfy the curl-free condition of electric fields. We have shown how these structures evolve with local time around the dusk sector and change with solar flux. During solar minimum, the peak region can go well below 200 km. The present-day electric field models do not incorporate these gradients, particularly in the evening sectors when they change very rapidly. Very often their results do not match with the observations. Including these gradients along with proper magnetic field models will improve the model results and accuracy of our navigation, communication, and positioning systems.

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