Sudden post-midnight decrease in equatorial F-region electron densities associated with severe magnetic storms
- National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi - 110012, India
Abstract. A detailed analysis of the responses of the equatorial ionosphere to a large number of severe magnetic storms shows the rapid and remarkable collapse of F-region ionisation during post-midnight hours; this is at variance with the presently accepted general behaviour of the low-latitude ionosphere during magnetic storms. This paper discusses such responses as seen in the ionosonde data at Kodaikanal (Geomagn. Lat. 0.6 N). It is also observed that during magnetic storm periods the usual increase seen in the h'F at Kodaikanal during sunset hours is considerably suppressed and these periods are also characterised by increased foF2 values. It is suggested that the primary process responsible for these dramatic pre- and post-midnight changes in foF2 during magnetic storms could be due to changes in the magnitude as well as in the direction of usual equatorial electric fields. During the post-midnight periods the change in electric-field direction from westward to eastward for a short period causes an upward E × B plasma drift resulting in increased h'F and decreased electron densities in the equatorial region. In addition, it is also suggested that the enhanced storm-induced meridional winds in the thermosphere, from the poles towards the equator, may also cause the decreases in electron density seen during post-midnight hours by spatially transporting the F-region ionisation southwards away from Kodaikanal. The paper also includes a discussion on the effects of such decreases in ionisation on low-latitude HF communications.