Overview and summary of the Spread F Experiment (SpreadFEx)
Abstract. We provide here an overview of, and a summary of results arising from, an extensive experimental campaign (the Spread F Experiment, or SpreadFEx) performed from September to November 2005, with primary measurements in Brazil. The motivation was to define the potential role of neutral atmosphere dynamics, specifically gravity wave motions propagating upward from the lower atmosphere, in seeding Rayleigh-Taylor instability (RTI) and plasma bubbles extending to higher altitudes. Campaign measurements focused on the Brazilian sector and included ground-based optical, radar, digisonde, and GPS measurements at a number of fixed and temporary sites. Related data on convection and plasma bubble structures were also collected by GOES 12, and the GUVI instrument aboard the TIMED satellite.
Initial results of our SpreadFEx analyses are described separately by Fritts et al. (2009). Further analyses of these data provide additional evidence of 1) gravity wave (GW) activity near the mesopause apparently linked to deep convection predominantly to the west of our measurement sites, 2) small-scale GWs largely confined to lower altitudes, 3) larger-scale GWs apparently penetrating to much higher altitudes, 4) substantial GW amplitudes implied by digisonde electron densities, and 5) apparent influences of these perturbations in the lower F-region on the formation of equatorial spread F, RTI, and plasma bubbles extending to much higher altitudes. Other efforts with SpreadFEx data have also yielded 6) the occurrence, locations, and scales of deep convection, 7) the spatial and temporal evolutions of plasma bubbles, 8) 2-D (height-resolved) structures in electron density fluctuations and equatorial spread F at lower altitudes and plasma bubbles above, and 9) the occurrence of substantial tidal perturbations to the large-scale wind and temperature fields extending to bottomside F-layer and higher altitudes. Collectively, our various SpreadFEx analyses suggest direct links between deep tropical convection and large GW perturbations at large spatial scales at the bottomside F-layer and their likely contributions to the excitation of RTI and plasma bubbles extending to much higher altitudes.