Articles | Volume 27, issue 7
01 Jul 2009
 | 01 Jul 2009

Gravity wave initiation of equatorial spread F/plasma bubble irregularities based on observational data from the SpreadFEx campaign

M. A. Abdu, E. Alam Kherani, I. S. Batista, E. R. de Paula, D. C. Fritts, and J. H. A. Sobral

Abstract. The data from ground based experiments conducted during the 2005 SpreadFEx campaign in Brazil are used, with the help of theoretical model calculations, to investigate the precursor conditions, and especially, the role of gravity waves, in the instability initiation leading to equatorial spread F development. Data from a digisonde and a 30 MHz coherent back-scatter radar operated at an equatorial site, Sao Luis (dip angle: 2.7°) and from a digisonde operated at another equatorial site (dip angle: −11.5°) are analyzed during selected days representative of differing precursor conditions of the evening prereversal vertical drift, F layer bottom-side density gradients and density perturbations due to gravity waves. It is found that radar irregularity plumes indicative of topside bubbles, can be generated for precursor vertical drift velocities exceeding 30 m/s even when the precursor GW induced density oscillations are marginally detectable by the digisonde. For drift velocities ≤20 m/s the presence of precursor gravity waves of detectable intensity is found to be a necessary condition for spread F instability initiation. Theoretical model calculations show that the zonal polarization electric field in an instability development, even as judged from its linear growth phase, can be significantly enhanced under the action of perturbation winds from gravity waves. Comparison of the observational results with the theoretical model calculations provides evidence for gravity wave seeding of equatorial spread F.