Mapping ionospheric backscatter measured by the SuperDARN HF radars – Part 1: A new empirical virtual height model
Abstract. Accurately mapping the location of ionospheric backscatter targets (density irregularities) identified by the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) HF radars can be a major problem, particularly at far ranges for which the radio propagation paths are longer and more uncertain. Assessing and increasing the accuracy of the mapping of scattering locations is crucial for the measurement of two-dimensional velocity structures on the small and meso-scale, for which overlapping velocity measurements from two radars need to be combined, and for studies in which SuperDARN data are used in conjunction with measurements from other instruments. The co-ordinates of scattering locations are presently estimated using a combination of the measured range and a model virtual height, assuming a straight line virtual propagation path. By studying elevation angle of arrival information of backscatterred signals from 5 years of data (1997–2001) from the Saskatoon SuperDARN radar we have determined the actual distribution of the backscatter target locations in range-virtual height space. This has allowed the derivation of a new empirical virtual height model that allows for a more accurate mapping of the locations of backscatter targets.