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Morphological and spectral characteristics of L-band and VHF scintillations and their impact on trans-ionospheric communications


Amplitude scintillations recorded at 1.5 GHz frequency during the high (1998–1999) and low (2004–2005) sunspot activity periods over a low latitude station, Waltair (17.7°N, 83.3°E) revealed that the L-band scintillations mostly occur during the post-sunset to midnight hours peaking around 21:00 hr local time with maximum occurrence during equinoxes, moderate during winter and minimum during the summer months. The occurrence, as well as the intensity of scintillations, is found to be strongly dependant on both the season of the year and the sunspot number. Strong (S4-index >0.45) and fast fading scintillations (fading rates >40 fads/min) observed during the post-sunset hours of equinoxes and winter months manifest as several short duration patches at both VHF (244 MHz) and L-band (1.5 GHz) frequencies and are found to be always associated with the range or total Spread-F on ionograms and bubbles/depletions in the Total Electron Content (TEC) measured from a colocated dual frequency GPS receiver, suggesting that these scintillations are of the Plasma Bubble Induced (PBI) type. On the other hand, relatively weak and slow fading scintillations (fading rates <8 fads/min) observed around the post-midnight hours of the summer months which appear as long-duration patches (>3 hr) at 244 MHz signal (with practically no scintillation activity at the L-band frequencies) are often found to be associated with frequency Spread-F on ionograms with no depletions in TEC. Further, the presence of Fresnel oscillations observed in the spectrum of 244 MHz suggests that the long-duration scintillations observed are due to the presence of a thin layer of irregularities in the bottom side F-region which are generally known as Bottom Side Sinusoidal (BSS) irregularities. Further, the PBI-type scintillations at L-band frequencies are often found to exceed 10 dB power levels (S4 > 0.45) even during the low sunspot activity period of 2004–2005, and cause Loss of Lock in the GPS receivers resulting in a total interruption in the received signals.


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Correspondence to P. V. S. Rama Rao.

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Rama Rao, P.V.S., Tulasi Ram, S., Gopi Krishna, S. et al. Morphological and spectral characteristics of L-band and VHF scintillations and their impact on trans-ionospheric communications. Earth Planet Sp 58, 895–904 (2006).

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  • Global Position System
  • Total Electron Content
  • Sunspot Number
  • Global Position System Receiver
  • Vertical Total Electron Content