Investigation of High Latitude Ionospheric Irregularities utilizing Modeling and GPS Observations

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Complex magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling mechanisms result in high latitude irregularities that are difficult to characterize. Until recently, the polar and auroral irregularities remained largely unexplored. Inadequate infrastructures to deploy and maintain advanced dual frequency Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers at high latitudes, especially in the Southern hemisphere, makes such an investigation a formidable task. Additionally, the complicated geometry of the magnetic field lines in these regions pose challenges in designing global scintillation models. This dissertation takes some steps towards bridging these gaps while advancing the state-of-the-art high latitude irregularity studies.

In the first part of this dissertation, we briefly describe the Autonomous Adaptive Low-Power Instrument Platforms (AAL-PIP) experimental setup. These space science instrument platforms are being deployed in remote locations in Antarctica, improving the coverage of GNSS data availability. We explain in detail the method developed for analyzing high rate (typically 50 Hz) data from a novel dual-frequency Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver called Connected Autonomous Space Environment Sensor (CASES). We also report first observations from CASES at high latitudes. From this study, we established that CASES can be reliably used as a science grade GPS scintillation monitor.

Following this, a novel three dimensional (3D) electromagnetic (EM) wave propagation model called "Satellite-beacon Ionospheric-scintillation Global Model of the upper Atmosphere" (SIGMA) was developed to simulate GNSS scintillations on ground. GPS scintillation simulations of significantly high fidelity are now possible with this model. While the model is global, it is the first such model which accounts for the complicated geometry of magnetic field lines at high latitudes. Using SIGMA, a sensitivity study is presented to understand the effect of geographical, propagation and irregularity parameters on the phase scintillations. This allows us to reduce the dimensionality of the design space while solving the inverse problem described next.

In the final part, we utilize the tools developed for GPS measurement analysis and SIGMA to characterize the high latitude irregularities. We propose an inverse modeling technique to derive irregularity parameters by comparing the high rate (50 Hz) GNSS observations to the modeled outputs. We consider interhemispheric high latitude datasets for this investigation. We also implement SIGMA for analyzing a substorm event observed by AAL-PIP stations. One of the unique contributions of this research is to demonstrate that such an inverse modeling technique can form a basis in the investigation of the ionospheric irregularities. Moreover, availability of ample auxiliary data from multi-instrument observations can assist in this quest of understanding the physics of high latitude irregularities and their generation mechanisms.

Ionosphere, Irregularities, High Latitude, GPS, Modeling, SIGMA