Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Bela G. Fejer


Bela G. Fejer


Robert Schunk


Farrell Edwards


Kay Baler


Charles Swenson


The first comprehensive study of equatorial- to mid-latitude ionospheric electric fields (plasma drifts) is presented, using extensive incoherent scatter radar measurements from Jicamarca, Arecibo, and Millstone Hill, and F-region ion drift meter data from the polar orbiting DE-2 satellite. Seasonal and solar cycle dependent empirical quiet-time electric field models from equatorial to mid latitudes are developed, which improve and extend existing climatological models. The signatures of electric field perturbations during geomagnetically disturbed periods, associated with changes in the high-latitude currents and the characteristics of storm-time dynamo electric fields driven by enhanced energy deposition into the high-latitude ionosphere, are studied. Analytical empirical models that describe these perturbation drifts are presented.

The study provided conclusive evidence for the two basic components of ionospheric disturbance electric fields. It is shown that magnetospheric dynamo electric fields can penetrate with significant amplitudes into the equatorial- to mid-latitude ionosphere, but only for periods up to 1 hour, consistent with results from the Rice Convection Model. The storm-time wind-driven electric fields are proportional to the high-latitude energy input, vary with local time and latitude, and have largest magnitudes during nighttime. These perturbations affect differently the zonal and meridional electric field components. It is shown that equatorial zonal electric fields (vertical drifts) can be disturbed up to 30 hours after large enhancements in the high-latitude currents. These perturbation electric fields are associated with enhanced high-latitude energy deposition taking place predominantly between about 1-12 hours earlier and found to be in good agreement with the Blanc-Richmond disturbance dynamo model. A second class of perturbations occurs around midnight and in the dawn-noon sector with delays of about 18-30 hours between the equatorial- and the high-latitude disturbances, and maximizes during locally quiet geomagnetic times.

The latitudinal variation of the meridional disturbance electric fields (zonal drifts) is also presented. It is shown that these perturbation electric fields are predominantly downward/equatorward at all latitudes and due to both prompt penetration and disturbance dynamo electric fields. These results are also generally consistent with predictions from global convection and disturbance dynamo models.



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