Articles | Volume 25, issue 12
02 Jan 2007
 | 02 Jan 2007

Unusual ionospheric effects observed during the intense 28 October 2003 solar flare in the Brazilian sector

Y. Sahai, F. Becker-Guedes, P. R. Fagundes, W. L. C. Lima, A. J. de Abreu, F. L. Guarnieri, C. M. N. Candido, and V. G. Pillat

Abstract. The 28 October 2003 solar flare (X-ray Class X17.2) was one of the most intense solar flares observed in the recent past. In the present investigation we show the unusual ionospheric effects observed in the Brazilian sector during this solar flare, using both the ionospheric sounding observations obtained at the UNIVAP stations: Palmas (7–10.2° S, 48.2° W, dip lat. 5.5° S) and Sao Jose dos Campos (23.2° S, 45.9° W, dip lat. 17.6° S), Brazil; and ground-based global positioning system (GPS) data obtained at the "Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística" (IBGE) stations: Imperatriz (5.5° S, 47.5° W, dip lat. 2.9° S), Brasilia (15.9° S, 47.9° W, dip lat. 11.7° S), Presidente Prudente (22.3° S, 51.4° W, dip lat. 14.9° S), and Porto Alegre (30.1° S, 51.1° W, dip lat. 20.7° S), Brazil; on two consecutive days, viz., 27 (without solar flare) and 28 (with solar flare) October 2003. It should be mentioned that the vertical total electron content (VTEC) from the GPS observations obtained during the solar flare showed an unusual simultaneous increase in the VTEC values at about 11:00 UT at all four stations associated with the solar flare EUV enhancements and lasted for about 3 h. However, no ionograms were obtained at any of the two UNIVAP stations for a period of about 1 h between about 11:00 to 12:00 UT. Before 11:00 UT (from about 10:45 UT) and after 12:00 UT (to about 16:00 UT), the ionograms were only partial, with the low frequency end missing. During this intense solar flare, hard X-rays (1 to 10 A), as observed by the GOES 12 satellite, were ejected by the Sun during a long period (several hours), with peak radiation at about 11:10 UT. These hard X-ray radiations can penetrate further into the ionosphere, causing an increase in ionization in the lower part of ionosphere (D-region). In this way, the lack of ionograms or partial ionograms, which indicates no echoes or partial echoes of the transmitted digital ionosonde signals, are related to intense absorption, resulting in complete or partial fade-out of radio signals at the lower ionospheric heights. The partial and complete radio fade-out observed in the Brazilian sector for more than six hours must have resulted in considerable difficulties to the radio station operating agencies using ionospheric radio transmissions.