Articles | Volume 18, issue 7
Ann. Geophys., 18, 799–806, 2000

Special issue: Lance Thomas

Ann. Geophys., 18, 799–806, 2000

  31 Jul 2000

31 Jul 2000

The generation of non aspect sensitive plasma density irregularities by field aligned drifts in the lower ionosphere

T. R. Robinson1 and K. Schlegel2 T. R. Robinson and K. Schlegel
  • 1University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • e-mail:
  • 2Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
  • Correspondence to: T. R. Robinson

Abstract. A theory of the generation of plasma density irregularities with virtually no aspect sensitivity, in the lower ionosphere at high latitudes, by electron drifts aligned with the geomagnetic field, is presented. The theory is developed through fluid equations in which the destabilising mechanism involves positive feedback from electron collisional heating. When field aligned electron drift speeds exceed a few km s-1, this effect destabilises waves with wavelengths in excess of a few tens of metres in the lower E-region, where collisional effects are sufficiently large. Furthermore, the threshold conditions are almost independent of the wave propagation direction and the unstable waves propagate at speeds well below the ion acoustic speed. The role that this new instability may play in recent radar backscatter observations of short scale irregularities propagating in directions close to that of the geomagnetic field, in the lower E-region is also considered.

Key words: Ionosphere (auroral ionosphere; ionospheric irregularities; plasma waves and instabilities)

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