Equatorial scintillations in relation to the development of ionization anomaly
- 1S. K. Mitra Center for Research in Space Enviornment, University of Calcutta, Calcutta, India
- 2Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics, University of Calcutta, Calcutta, India
Abstract. The irregularities in the electron density distribution of the ionosphere over the equatorial region frequently disrupt space-based communication and navigation links by causing severe amplitude and phase scintillations of signals. Development of a specification and forecast system for scintillations is needed in view of the increased reliance on space-based communication and navigation systems, which are vulnerable to ionospheric scintillations. It has been suggested in recent years that a developed equatorial anomaly in the afternoon hours, with a steep gradient of the F-region ionization or Total Electron Content (TEC) in the region between the crest and the trough, may be taken as a precursor to scintillations on transionospheric links. Latitudinal gradient of TEC measured using Faraday Rotation technique from LEO NOAA 12/14 transmissions during the afternoon hours at Calcutta shows a highly significant association with L-band scintillations recorded on the INMARSAT link, also from Calcutta, during the equinoxes, August through October 2000, and February through April 2001.
The daytime equatorial electrojet is believed to control the development of the equatorial anomaly and plays a crucial role in the subsequent development of F-region irregularities in the post-sunset hours. The diurnal maximum and integrated value (integrated from the time of onset of plasma influx to off-equatorial latitudes till local sunset) of the strength of the electrojet in the Indian longitude sector shows a significant association with post-sunset L-band scintillations recorded at Calcutta during the two equinoxes mentioned earlier.
Generation of equatorial irregularities over the magnetic equator in the post-sunset hours is intimately related to the variation of the height of the F-layer around sunset. Ionosonde data from Kodaikanal, a station situated close to the magnetic equator, has been utilized to calculate the vertical drift of the F-layer over the magnetic equator for the period August through October 2000. The post-sunset F-region height rise over the magnetic equator shows a remarkable correspondence with the occurrence of scintillations at Calcutta located near the northern crest of the equatorial anomaly.
Existence of a flat-topped ionization distribution over the magnetic equator around sunset has been suggested as a possible indication of occurrence of post-sunset scintillations. Width of the latitudinal distribution of ionization obtained from DMSP satellite shows some correspondence with post-sunset L-band scintillations. During the period of observation of the present study (August through October 2000, and February through April 2001), it has been observed that although the probability of occurrence of scintillations is high on days with flat-topped ion density variation over the equator, there are cases when no scintillations were observed even when a pronounced flat top variation was recorded.