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Propagation of Plasma Bubbles Observed in Brazil from GPS and Airglow Data

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Advances in Space Research







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Equatorial spread-F is a common occurrence in the equatorial ionosphere that is associated with large variations in plasma density that often cause scintillation and interference in communication signals. These events are known to result from Rayleigh–Taylor instability, but the day-to-day variability of their occurrence is not well understood. The triggering mechanism of plasma depletions is still a matter of debate, but may be linked to gravity waves that under favorable conditions propagate to the middle atmosphere. Understanding the triggering of ESF was the focus of the SpreadFEx campaign near Brasilia, Brazil in 2005. The campaign provided co-located airglow and GPS observations to study the onset of plasma depletions and their evolution as they traversed the region. Comparisons between the 630.0 nm airglow data and GPS data demonstrate the ability of the compact dual frequency GPS array to detect the plasma bubbles and retrieve reliable propagation characteristics of the depletions. In this case study, a plasma depletion was detected and moved over the array at velocities of 85–110 m/s, slowing as it moved towards the east. Correlation of consecutive airglow images gives consistent estimates of the eastward drift over the same time period. Mapping the airglow data to the GPS line-of-sight geometry allows direct comparison and reveals a resolvable westward tilt of the plasma depletion that may be due to vertical shear. The uniqueness of this study is the ability to resolve locally the characteristics of the plasma depletion without relying on assumptions about the mapping of the depletion along magnetic field lines to large latitudinal distances. It presents new information for understanding ESF development and the development of depletions strong enough to produce scintillation.


Published by Elsevier in Advances in Space Research.

Publisher PDF is available for download through the link above.