Global variation in the long-term seasonal changes observed in ionospheric F region data
Abstract. Long-term variability has previously been observed in the relative magnitude of annual and semi-annual variations in the critical frequency (related to the peak electron concentration) of the ionospheric F2 layer (foF2). In this paper we investigate the global patterns in such variability by calculating the time varying power ratio of semi-annual to annual components seen in ionospheric foF2 data sequences from 77 ionospheric monitoring stations around the world. The temporal variation in power ratios observed at each station was then correlated with the same parameter calculated from similar epochs for the Slough/Chilton data set (for which there exists the longest continuous sequence of ionospheric data). This technique reveals strong regional variation in the data, which bears a striking similarity to the regional variation observed in long-term changes to the height of the ionospheric F2 layer. We argue that since both the height and peak density of the ionospheric F2 region are influenced by changes to thermospheric circulation and composition, the observed long-term and regional variability can be explained by such changes. In the absence of long-term measurements of thermospheric composition, detailed modelling work is required to investigate these processes.