Southern high-latitude Digisonde observations of ionosphere E-region Bragg scatter during intense lacuna conditions
- 1Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia
- 2IPS Radio and Space Services, Haymarket, New South Wales, Australia
- 3Department of Physics, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
Abstract. During summer months at solar cycle minimum, F-region lacuna and slant-Es conditions (SEC) are common features of daytime ionograms recorded around local magnetic noon at Casey, Antarctica. Digisonde measurements of drift velocity height profiles show that the occurrence of lacuna prevents the determination of F-region drift velocities and also affects E-region drift velocity measurements. Unique E-region spectral features revealed as intervals of Bragg scatter superimposed on typical background E-region reflection were observed in Digisonde Doppler spectra during intense lacuna conditions. Daytime E-region Doppler spectra recorded at carrier frequencies from 1.5 to 2.7MHz, below the E-region critical frequency foE, have two side-peaks corresponding to Bragg scatter at approximately ±1-2Hz symmetrically located on each side of a central-peak corresponding to near-zenith total reflections. Angle-of-arrival information and ray-tracing simulations show that echo returns are coming from oblique directions most likely resulting from direct backscatter from just below the total reflection height for each sounding frequency. The Bragg backscatter events are shown to manifest during polar lacuna conditions, and to affect the determination of E-region background drift velocities, and as such must be considered when using standard Doppler-sorted interferometry (DSI) techniques to estimate ionospheric drift velocities. Given the Doppler and spatial separation of the echoes determined from high-resolution Doppler measurements, we are able to estimate the Bragg scatter phase velocity independently from the bulk E-region motion. The phase velocity coincides with the ExB direction derived from in situ fluxgate magnetometer records. When ionospheric refraction is considered, the phase velocity amplitudes deduced from DSI are comparable to the ion-acoustic speed expected in the E-region. We briefly consider the plausibility that these previously unreported polar cap E-region Bragg scatter Doppler spectral signatures, observed at Casey in December 1996 during SEC/lacuna conditions may be linked to ionosphere irregularities. These irregularities may possibly be generated by primary plasma waves triggered by current-driven instabilities, that is to say, a hybrid of the "modified two-stream" and "gradient drift" instability mechanisms.