Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Ludger Scherliess


Ludger Scherliess


Robert W. Schunk


W. Farrell Edwards


Lie Zhu


Todd Moon


Detailed study of the spatial correlations of day-to-day ionospheric TEC variations on a global scale was performed for four 30-day-long periods in 2004 (January, March/April, June/July, September/October) using observations from more than 1000 ground-based GPS receivers. In order to obtain the spatial correlations, initially, the day-to-day variability was calculated by first mapping the observed slant TEC values for each 5-minute GPS ground receiver-satellite pair to the vertical and then differencing it with its corresponding value from the previous day. This resulted in more than 150 million values of day-to-day change in TEC (delta TEC). Next, statistics were performed on the delta TEC values. The study indicates strong correlations between geomagnetic conjugate points, and these correlations are larger at low latitudes than at middle latitudes. Typical correlation lengths, defined as the angular separation at which the correlation coefficient drops to 0.7, were found to be larger at middle latitudes than at low latitudes. The correlation lengths are larger during daytime than during nighttime. The results indicate that the spatial correlation is largely independent of season. These spatial correlations are important for understanding the physical mechanisms that cause ionospheric weather variability and are also relevant to data assimilation. In an effort to better understand the effects of neutral wind and electric field on the TEC variability, a physics-based numerical Ionosphere/Plasmasphere Model (IPM) was used. The model solves the transport equations for the six ions, O+, NO+, O2+, N2+, H+, and He+, on convecting flux tubes that realistically follow the geomagnetic field. Two of the inputs required by the IPM are the thermospheric neutral wind and the low-latitude electric field, which can be given by existing empirical model or externally specified by the user. To study the relative importance of the neutral wind and the electric field for the TEC variations, these two model inputs were externally modified and the resulting variations in TEC were compared. Neutral wind and electric field modifications were introduced at three different local times in order to investigate the effect of different start times of the imposed perturbations on TEC. This study focused on modeled low- and middle-latitude TEC variations in the afternoon and post-sunset at three different longitude sectors for medium solar activity and low geomagnetic activity. The largest changes in TEC were found predominantly in the equatorial anomaly, and a significant longitudinal dependence was observed. The results indicate that the perturbation effect on the TEC at 2100 LT varied nonlinearly with the elapsed time after the imposed neutral wind and electric field perturbations. An important outcome of this study is that daytime neutral wind and/or electric field modifications will lead to essentially identical TEC changes in the 2100 local time sector.