Articles | Volume 32, issue 5
Ann. Geophys., 32, 485–498, 2014

Special issue: C/NOFS results and equatorial ionospheric dynamics

Ann. Geophys., 32, 485–498, 2014

Regular paper 15 May 2014

Regular paper | 15 May 2014

Faith in a seed: on the origins of equatorial plasma bubbles

J. M. Retterer1 and P. Roddy2 J. M. Retterer and P. Roddy
  • 1Institute for Scientific Research, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 02467, USA
  • 2Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, USA

Abstract. Our faith in the seeds of equatorial plasma irregularities holds that there will generally always be density perturbations sufficient to provide the seeds for irregularity development whenever the Rayleigh–Taylor instability is active. When the duration of the time of the Rayleigh–Taylor instability is short, however, the magnitude of the seed perturbations can make a difference in whether the irregularities have a chance to grow to a strength at which the nonlinear development of plumes occurs. In addition, the character of the resulting irregularities reflects the characteristics of the initial seed density perturbation, e.g., their strength, spacing, and, to some extent, their spatial scales, and it is important to know the seeds to help determine the structure of the developed irregularities. To this end, we describe the climatology of daytime and early-evening density irregularities that can serve as seeds for later development of plumes, as determined from the Planar Langmuir Probe (PLP) plasma density measurements on the C/NOFS (Communication and Navigation Outage Forecast System) satellite mission, presenting their magnitude as a function of altitude, latitude, longitude, local time, season, and phase in the solar cycle (within the C/NOFS observation era). To examine some of the consequences of these density perturbations, they are used as initial conditions for the PBMOD PBMOD (Retterer, 2010a) 3-D irregularity model to follow their potential development into larger-amplitude irregularities, plumes, and radio scintillation.

"Though I do not believe that a pla[sma bubble] will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." – Henry David Thoreau