Simultaneous observations of equatorial F-region plasma depletions over Brazil during the Spread-F Experiment (SpreadFEx)
Abstract. From September to November 2005, the NASA Living with a Star program supported the Spread-F Experiment campaign (SpreadFEx) in Brazil to study the effects of convectively generated gravity waves on the ionosphere and their role in seeding Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities, and associated equatorial plasma bubbles. Several US and Brazilian institutes deployed a broad range of instruments (all-sky imagers, digisondes, photometers, meteor/VHF radars, GPS receivers) covering a large area of Brazil. The campaign was divided in two observational phases centered on the September and October new moon periods. During these periods, an Utah State University (USU) all-sky CCD imager operated at São João d'Aliança (14.8° S, 47.6° W), near Brasilia, and a Brazilian all-sky CCD imager located at Cariri (7.4° S, 36° W), observed simultaneously the evolution of the ionospheric bubbles in the OI (630 nm) emission and the mesospheric gravity wave field. The two sites had approximately the same magnetic latitude (9–10° S) but were separated in longitude by ~1500 km.
Plasma bubbles were observed on every clear night (17 from Brasilia and 19 from Cariri, with 8 coincident nights). These joint datasets provided important information for characterizing the ionospheric depletions during the campaign and to perform a novel longitudinal investigation of their variability. Measurements of the drift velocities at both sites are in good agreement with previous studies, however, the overlapping fields of view revealed significant differences in the occurrence and structure of the plasma bubbles, providing new evidence for localized generation. This paper summarizes the observed bubble characteristics important for related investigations of their seeding mechanisms associated with gravity wave activity.