Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael J. Taylor


The Earth's equatorial ionosphere most often shows the occurrence of large plasma density and velocity fluctuations with a broad range of scale sizes and amplitudes. These night time ionospheric irregularities in the F-region are commonly referred to as equatorial spread F (ESF) or plasma bubbles (EPBs). This dissertation focuses on analysis of ground-based optical and radar measurements to investigate the development and dynamics of ESF, which can significantly disrupt radio communication and GPS navigation systems. OI (630.0 nm) airglow image data were obtained by the Utah State University all-sky CCD camera, primarily during the equinox period, from three different longitudinal sectors under similar solar flux conditions: Christmas Island in the Central Pacific Ocean, Ascension Island in South Atlantic, and Brasilia and Cariri in Brazil. Well-defined magnetic field-aligned depletions were observed from each of these sites enabling detailed measurements of their morphology and dynamics. These data have also been used to investigate day-to-day and longitudinal variations in the evolution and distribution of the plasma bubbles, and their nocturnal zonal drift velocities. In particular, comparative optical measurements at different longitudinal sectors illustrated interesting findings. During the post midnight period, the data from Christmas Island consistently showed nearly constant eastward bubble velocity at a much higher value (~80 m/s) than expected, while data from Ascension Island exhibited a most unusual shear motion of the bubble structure, up to 55 m/s, on one occasion with westward drift at low latitude and eastward at higher latitudes, evident within the field of view of the camera.

In addition, long-term radar observations during 1996-2006 from Jicamarca, Peru have been used to study the climatology of post-sunset ESF irregularities. Results showed that the spread F onset times did not change much with solar flux and that their onset heights increased linearly from solar minimum to solar maximum. On average, radar plume onset occurred earlier with increasing solar flux, and plume onset and peak altitudes increased with solar activity. The F-region upward drift velocities that precede spread F onset increased from solar minimum to solar maximum, and were approximately proportional to the maximum prereversal drift peak velocities.


This work made publicly available electronically on May 11, 2011.