Ionospheric Disturbances: Midlatitude Pi2 Magnetospheric ULF Pulsations and Medium Scale Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances

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Virginia Tech

The ionosphere is an electrically charged atmospheric region which is coupled to the sun, the magnetosphere, and the neutral atmosphere. The ionospheric state can significantly impact technological systems, especially those which utilize radio frequency energy. By studying ionospheric disturbances, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of not only the ionosphere itself, but also the natural and technological systems it is coupled to. This dissertation research utilizes high frequency (HF) radio remote sensing techniques to study three distinct types of ionospheric disturbances. First, ground magnetometers and a new mid latitude SuperDARN HF radar at Blackstone, Virginia are used to observe magnetospheric Pi2 ultra low frequency (ULF) pulsations in the vicinity of the plasmapause. Prior to these pulsations, two Earthward moving fast plasma flows were detected by spacecraft in the magnetotail. Signatures of inner magnetospheric compression observed by the Blackstone radar provide conclusive evidence that the plasma flow bursts directly generated the ground Pi2 signature via a compressional wave. This mechanism had previously been hypothesized, but never confirmed. Next, ten SuperDARN radars in the North American Sector are used to investigate the sources and characteristics of atmospheric gravity waves (AGW) associated medium scale traveling ionospheric disturbances (MSTIDs) at both midlatitudes and high latitudes. Consistent with prior studies, the climatological MSTID population in both latitudinal regions was found to peak in the fall and winter and have a dominant equatorward propagation direction. Prior studies suggested these MSTIDs were caused by mechanisms associated with auroral and space weather activity; however, it is shown here that the AE and Sym-H indices are poorly correlated with MSTID observations. A new, multi-week timescale of MSTID activity is reported. This leads to the finding that MSTID occurrence is highly correlated with an index representative of polar vortex activity, possibly controlled by a filtering mechanism that is a function of stratospheric neutral wind direction. Finally, a case study of a radio blackout of transionospheric HF communications caused by an X2.9 class solar flare is presented. This study demonstrates the potential of a novel technique employing signals of opportunity and automated receiving networks voluntarily created by an international community of amateur radio operators.

Pi2 ULF Pulsations, Atmospheric Gravity Waves, MSTIDs, Ionosphere, Magnetosphere