Open Access

Tracking F-region plasma depletion bands using GPS-TEC, incoherent scatter radar, and all-sky imaging at Arecibo

Earth, Planets and Space200860:BF03353127

Received: 28 January 2007

Accepted: 25 December 2007

Published: 4 July 2008


F-region plasma dynamics has been one of the main foci of the ionospheric research community for decades. The mid-latitude F-region has been considered to be relatively calm; however recent observations using highly sensitive CCD imaging systems and Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers have revealed that mid-latitude F-region mesoscale electrodynamics are more complex and this region is more active than usually assumed. Here we report combined incoherent scatter radar (ISR), imager, and GPS observations of F-region Medium-Scale Traveling Ionospheric Disturbance (MSTID) structures over the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. In particular, the plasma structures seen in the narrow-beam ISR cannot be understood fully without the all-sky images, which provide the context for the radar results—specifically, the spatial and temporal properties of the mesoscale structure. The GPS-derived total electron content (TEC) data provide additional information on the intensity of the MSTIDs. Here we present analysis of two specific plasma depletion events, which we prefer to call “MSTID bands”. Important results on the 3D geometry of these structures were found using a newly developed observation technique. For the first time, it is shown that the southern part of MSTID bands reaches higher altitudes than the northern part (vertically tilted by 12° towards magnetic south). These results give a much broader perspective on nighttime, mid-latitude F-region structure and point to new ways of interpreting these structures and how they appear in ISR results.

Key words

F-region plasma depletion bands GPS-TEC ISR all-sky imaging MSTID