Articles | Volume 23, issue 10
30 Nov 2005
 | 30 Nov 2005

Role of neutral wind and storm time electric fields inferred from the storm time ionization distribution at low latitudes: in-situ measurements by Indian satellite SROSS-C2

P. Subrahmanyam, A. R. Jain, L. Singh, and S. C. Garg

Abstract. Recently, there has been a renewal of interest in the study of the effects of solar weather events on the ionization redistribution and irregularity generation. The observed changes at low and equatorial latitudes are rather complex and are noted to be a function of location, the time of the storm onset and its intensity, and various other characteristics of the geomagnetic storms triggered by solar weather events. At these latitudes, the effects of geomagnetic storms are basically due to (a) direct penetration of the magnetospheric electric fields to low latitudes, (b) development of disturbance dynamo, (c) changes in atmospheric neutral winds at ionospheric level and (d) changes in neutral composition triggered by the storm time atmospheric heating.

In the present study an attempt is made to further understand some of the observed storm time effects in terms of storm time changes in zonal electric fields and meridional neutral winds. For this purpose, observations made by the Retarding Potential Analyzer (RPA) payload on board the Indian satellite SROSS-C2 are examined for four prominent geomagnetic storm events that occurred during the high solar activity period of 1997-2000. Available simultaneous observations, from the GPS satellite network, are also used. The daytime passes of SROSS-C2 have been selected to examine the redistribution of ionization in the equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) region. In general, EIA is observed to be weakened 12-24 h after the main phase onset (MPO) of the storm. The storm time behaviour inferred by SROSS-C2 and the GPS satellite network during the geomagnetic storm of 13 November 1998, for which simultaneous observations are available, is found to be consistent. Storm time changes in the delay of received GPS signals are noted to be ~1-3 m, which is a significant component of the total delay observed on a quiet day.

An attempt is made to identify and delineate the effects of a) meridional neutral winds, b) the development of the ring currents and c) the disturbance dynamo electric fields on the low latitude ionization distribution. The weakening of the EIA is noted to be primarily due to the decrease in the eastward electric fields driving the equatorial fountain during the daytime. The meridional neutral winds are also noted to play an important role in redistribution of ionization in the EIA region. The present results demonstrate that storm time latitudinal distribution of ionization in this region can be better understood by taking into account the meridional winds in addition to E×B drifts.