Articles | Volume 29, issue 2
22 Feb 2011
 | 22 Feb 2011

Climatology of GPS phase scintillation and HF radar backscatter for the high-latitude ionosphere under solar minimum conditions

P. Prikryl, P. T. Jayachandran, S. C. Mushini, and R. Chadwick

Abstract. Maps of GPS phase scintillation at high latitudes have been constructed after the first two years of operation of the Canadian High Arctic Ionospheric Network (CHAIN) during the 2008–2009 solar minimum. CHAIN consists of ten dual-frequency receivers, configured to measure amplitude and phase scintillation from L1 GPS signals and ionospheric total electron content (TEC) from L1 and L2 GPS signals. Those ionospheric data have been mapped as a function of magnetic local time and geomagnetic latitude assuming ionospheric pierce points (IPPs) at 350 km. The mean TEC depletions are identified with the statistical high-latitude and mid-latitude troughs. Phase scintillation occurs predominantly in the nightside auroral oval and the ionospheric footprint of the cusp. The strongest phase scintillation is associated with auroral arc brightening and substorms or with perturbed cusp ionosphere. Auroral phase scintillation tends to be intermittent, localized and of short duration, while the dayside scintillation observed for individual satellites can stay continuously above a given threshold for several minutes and such scintillation patches persist over a large area of the cusp/cleft region sampled by different satellites for several hours. The seasonal variation of the phase scintillation occurrence also differs between the nightside auroral oval and the cusp. The auroral phase scintillation shows an expected semiannual oscillation with equinoctial maxima known to be associated with aurorae, while the cusp scintillation is dominated by an annual cycle maximizing in autumn-winter. These differences point to different irregularity production mechanisms: energetic electron precipitation into dynamic auroral arcs versus cusp ionospheric convection dynamics. Observations suggest anisotropy of scintillation-causing irregularities with stronger L-shell alignment of irregularities in the cusp while a significant component of field-aligned irregularities is found in the nightside auroral oval. Scintillation-causing irregularities can coexist with small-scale field-aligned irregularities resulting in HF radar backscatter. The statistical cusp and auroral oval are characterized by the occurrence of HF radar ionospheric backscatter and mean ground magnetic perturbations due to ionospheric currents.