The Mid-Latitude Ionosphere: Modeling and Analysis of Plasma Wave Irregularities and the Potential Impact on GPS Signals
Eltrass, Ahmed Said Hassan Ahmed
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The mid-latitude ionosphere is more complicated than previously thought, as it includes many different scales of wave-like structures. Recent studies reveal that the mid-latitude ionospheric irregularities are less understood due to lack of models and observations that can explain the characteristics of the observed wave structures. Since temperature and density gradients are a persistent feature in the mid-latitude ionosphere near the plasmapause, the drift mode growth rate at short wavelengths may explain the mid-latitude decameter-scale ionospheric irregularities observed by the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN). In the context of this dissertation, we focus on investigating the plasma waves responsible for the mid-latitude ionospheric irregularities and studying their influence on Global Positioning System (GPS) scintillations. First, the physical mechanism of the Temperature Gradient Instability (TGI), which is a strong candidate for producing mid-latitude irregularities, is proposed. The electro- static dispersion relation for TGI is extended into the kinetic regime appropriate for High- Frequency (HF) radars by including Landau damping, finite gyro-radius effects, and tem- perature anisotropy. The kinetic dispersion relation of the Gradient Drift Instability (GDI) including finite ion gyro-radius effects is also solved to consider decameter-scale waves gen- eration. The TGI and GDI calculations are obtained over a broad set of parameter regimes to underscore limitations in fluid theory for short wavelengths and to provide perspective on the experimental observations. Joint measurements by the Millstone Hill Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) and the Su- perDARN HF radar located at Wallops Island, Virginia have identified the presence of decameter-scale electron density irregularities that have been proposed to be responsible for low-velocity Sub-Auroral Ionospheric Scatter (SAIS) observed by SuperDARN radars. In order to investigate the mechanism responsible for the growth of these irregularities, a time series for the growth rate of both TGI and GDI is developed. The time series is computed for both perpendicular and meridional density and temperature gradients. The growth rate comparison shows that the TGI is the most likely generation mechanism for the observed quiet-time irregularities and the GDI is expected to play a relatively minor role in irregular- ity generation. This is the first experimental confirmation that mid-latitude decameter-scale ionospheric irregularities are produced by the TGI or by turbulent cascade from primary irregularity structures produced from this instability. The quiet- and disturbed-times plasma wave irregularities are compared by investigating co-located experimental observations by the Blackstone SuperDARN radar and the Millstone Hill ISR under various sets of geomagnetic conditions. The radar observations in conjunction with growth rate calculations suggest that the TGI in association with the GDI or a cascade product from them may cause the observations of disturbed-time sub-auroral ionospheric irregularities. Following this, the nonlinear evolution of the TGI is investigated utilizing gyro-kinetic Particle-In-Cell (PIC) simulation techniques with Monte Carlo collisions for the first time. The purpose of this investigation is to identify the mechanism responsible for the nonlinear saturation as well as the associated anomalous transport. The simulation results indicate that the nonlinear E x B convection (trapping) of the electrons is the dominant TGI sat- uration mechanism. The spatial power spectra of the electrostatic potential and density fluctuations associated with the TGI are also computed and the results show wave cascad- ing of TGI from kilometer scales into the decameter-scale regime of the radar observations. This suggests that the observed mid-latitude decameter-scale ionospheric irregularities may be produced directly by the TGI or by turbulent cascade from primary longer-wavelength irregularity structures produced from this instability. Finally, the potential impact of the mid-latitude ionospheric irregularities on GPS signals is investigated utilizing modeling and observations. The recorded GPS data at mid-latitude stations are analyzed to study the amplitude and phase fluctuations of the GPS signals and to investigate the spectral index variations due to ionospheric irregularities. The GPS measurements show weak to moderate scintillations of GPS L1 signals in the presence of ionospheric irregularities during disturbed geomagnetic conditions. The GPS spectral indices are calculated and found to be in the same range of the numerical simulations of TGI and GDI. Both simulation results and GPS spectral analysis are consistent with previous in-situ satellite measurements during disturbed periods, showing that the spectral index of mid- latitude density irregularities are of the order 2. The scintillation results along with radar observations suggest that the observed decameter-scale irregularities that cause SuperDARN backscatter, co-exist with kilometer-scale irregularities that cause L-band scintillations. The alignment between the experimental, theoretical, and computational results of this study suggests that turbulent cascade processes of TGI and GDI may cause the observations of GPS scintillations that occur under disturbed conditions of the mid-latitude F-region ionosphere. The TGI and GDI wave cascading lends further support to the belief that the E-region may be responsible for shorting out the F-region TGI and GDI electric fields before and around sunset and ultimately leading to irregularity suppression.
- Doctoral Dissertations