Articles | Volume 24, issue 1
07 Mar 2006
 | 07 Mar 2006

A global climatology for equatorial plasma bubbles in the topside ionosphere

L. C. Gentile, W. J. Burke, and F. J. Rich

Abstract. We have developed a global climatology of equatorial plasma bubble (EPB) occurrence based on evening sector plasma density measurements from polar-orbiting Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft during 1989-2004. EPBs are irregular plasma density depletions in the post-sunset ionosphere that degrade communication and navigation signals. More than 14400 EPBs were identified in ~134000 DMSP orbits. DMSP observations basically agree with Tsunoda's (1985) hypothesis that EPB rates peak when the terminator is aligned with the Earth's magnetic field, but there are also unpredicted offsets in many longitude sectors. We present an updated climatology for the full database from 1989-2004 along with new plots for specific phases of the solar cycle: maximum 1989-1992 and 1999-2002, minimum 1994-1997, and transition years 1993, 1998, and 2003. As expected, there are significant differences between the climatologies for solar maximum and minimum and between the two solar maximum phases as well. We also compare DMSP F12, F14, F15, and F16 observations at slightly different local times during 2000-2004 to examine local time effects on EPB rates. The global climatologies developed using the DMSP EPB database provide an environmental context for the long-range prediction tools under development for the Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) mission.