Articles | Volume 32, issue 10
Regular paper
29 Oct 2014
Regular paper |  | 29 Oct 2014

Characteristics of Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) naturally enhanced ion-acoustic lines (NEIALs) in relation to auroral forms

R. G. Michell, T. Grydeland, and M. Samara

Abstract. Naturally enhanced ion-acoustic lines (NEIALs) have been observed with the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) ever since it began operating in 2006. The nearly continuous operation of PFISR since then has led to a large number of NEIAL observations from there, where common-volume, high-resolution auroral imaging data are available. We aim to systematically distinguish the different types of auroral forms that are associated with different NEIAL features, including spectral shape and altitude extent. We believe that NEIALs occur with a continuum of morphological characteristics, although we find that most NEIALs observed with PFISR fall into two general categories. The first group occurs at fairly low altitudes – F region or below – and have power at, and spread between, the ion-acoustic peaks. The second group contains the type of NEIALs that have previously been observed with the EISCAT radars, those that extend to high altitudes (600 km or more) and often have large asymmetries in the power enhancements between the two ion-acoustic shoulders. We find that there is a correlation between the auroral structures and the type of NEIALs observed, and that the auroral structures present during NEIAL events are consistent with the likely NEIAL generation mechanisms inferred in each case. The first type of NEIAL – low altitude – is the most commonly observed with PFISR and is most often associated with active, structured auroral arcs, such as substorm growth phase, and onset arcs and are likely generated by Langmuir turbulence. The second type of NEIAL – high altitude – occurs less frequently in the PFISR radar and is associated with aurora that contains large fluxes of low-energy electrons, as can happen in poleward boundary intensifications as well as at substorm onset and is likely the result of current-driven instabilities and in some cases Langmuir turbulence as well. In addition, a preliminary auroral photometry analysis revealed that there is an anticorrelation between the altitude of the NEIALs and the calculated energy of the electrons, which is consistent with the hypotheses presented here regarding generation mechanisms.