Refractive index effects on the scatter volume location and Doppler velocity estimates of ionospheric HF backscatter echoes
Abstract. Ionospheric E×B plasma drift velocities derived from the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) Doppler data exhibit systematically smaller (by 20–30%) magnitudes than those measured by the Defence Meteorological Satellites Program (DMSP) satellites. A part of the disagreement was previously attributed to the change in the E/B ratio due to the altitude difference between the satellite orbit and the location of the effective scatter volume for the radar signals. Another important factor arises from the free-space propagation assumption used in converting the measured Doppler frequency shift into the line-of-sight velocity. In this work, we have applied numerical ray-tracing to identify the location of the effective scattering volume of the ionosphere and to estimate the ionospheric refractive index. The simulations show that the major contribution to the radar echoes should be provided by the Pedersen and/or escaping rays that are scattered in the vicinity of the F-layer maximum. This conclusion is supported by a statistical analysis of the experimental elevation angle data, which have a signature consistent with scattering from the F-region peak. A detailed analysis of the simulations has allowed us to propose a simple velocity correction procedure, which we have successfully tested against the SuperDARN/DMSP comparison data set.