On the collocation between dayside auroral activity and coherent HF radar backscatter
Abstract. The 2D morphology of coherent HF radar and optical cusp aurora has been studied for conditions of predominantly southward IMF conditions, which favours low-latitude boundary layer reconnection. Despite the variability in shape of radar cusp Doppler spectra, the spectral width criterion of > 220 m s–1 proves to be a robust cusp discriminator. For extended periods of well-developed radar backscatter echoes, the equatorward boundary of the > 220 m s–1 spectral width enhancement lines up remarkably well with the equatorward boundary of the optical cusp aurora. The spectral width boundary is however poorly determined during development and fading of radar cusp backscatter. Closer inspection of radar Doppler profile characteristics suggests that a combination of spectral width and shape may advance boundary layer identification by HF radar. For the two December days studied the onset of radar cusp backscatter occurred within pre-existing 630.0 nm cusp auroral activity and appear to be initiated by sunrise, i.e. favourable radio wave propagation conditions had to develop. Better methods are put forward for analysing optical data, and for physical interpretation of HF radar data, and for combining these data, as applied to detection, tracking, and better understanding of dayside aurora. The broader motivation of this work is to develop wider use by the scientific community, of results of these techniques, to accelerate understanding of dynamic high-latitude boundary-processes. The contributions in this work are: (1) improved techniques of analysis of observational data, yielding meaningfully enhanced accuracy for deduced cusp locations; (2) a correspondingly more pronounced validation of correlation of boundary locations derived from the observational data set; and (3) a firmer physical rationale as to why the good correlation observed should theoretically be expected.
Key words: Ionosphere (ionospheric irregularities; polar ionosphere)