High resolution observations of sporadic-E layers within the polar cap ionosphere using a new incoherent scatter radar experiment
Abstract. High resolution observations of sporadic-E layers using a new experiment with the EISCAT (European Incoherent SCATter) Svalbard radar (ESR) are presented. The observations were made by means of a new type of hardware, which was connected in parallel with the standard receiver. The radar beam was aligned with the geomagnetic field. The experiment applies a new modulation principle. Two phase codes, one with 22 bits and the other with 5 bits, were transmitted at separate frequencies. Each bit was further modulated by a 5-bit Barker code. The basic bit length of both transmissions was 6 µs. Instead of storing the lagged products of the ionospheric echoes in the traditional way, samples of both the transmitted pulses and the ionospheric echoes were taken at intervals of 1 µs and stored on hard disk. The lagged products were calculated later in an off-line analysis. In the analysis a sidelobe-free Barker decoding technique was used. The experiment produces range ambiguities, which were removed by mathematical inversion. Sporadic-E layers were observed at 105–115 km altitudes, and they are displayed with a 150-m range resolution and a 10-s time resolution. The layers show sometimes complex shapes, including triple peaked structures. The thickness of these sublayers is of the order of 1–2 km and they may be separated by 5 km in range. While drifting downwards, the sublayers merge together to form a single layer. The plasma inside a layer is found to have a longer correlation length than that of the surrounding plasma. This may be an indication of heavy ions inside the layer. The field-aligned ion velocity is also calculated. It reveals shears in the meridional wind, which suggests that shears probably also exist in the zonal wind. Hence the wind shear mechanism is a possible generation mechanism of the layer. However, observations from the coherent SuperDARN radar indicate the presence of an ionospheric electric field pointing in the sector between west and north. Thus, the layer could also be produced by the electric field mechanism. This means that both mechanisms may be active simultaneously. Their relative importance could not be determined in this study.
Key words. Ionosphere; polar ionosphere, instruments and techniques