Articles | Volume 35, issue 6
Regular paper
07 Dec 2017
Regular paper |  | 07 Dec 2017

Total electron content responses to HILDCAAs and geomagnetic storms over South America

Patricia Mara de Siqueira Negreti, Eurico Rodrigues de Paula, and Claudia Maria Nicoli Candido

Abstract. Total electron content (TEC) is extensively used to monitor the ionospheric behavior under geomagnetically quiet and disturbed conditions. This subject is of greatest importance for space weather applications. Under disturbed conditions the two main sources of electric fields, which are responsible for changes in the plasma drifts and for current perturbations, are the short-lived prompt penetration electric fields (PPEFs) and the longer-lasting ionospheric disturbance dynamo (DD) electric fields. Both mechanisms modulate the TEC around the globe and the equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) at low latitudes. In this work we computed vertical absolute TEC over the low latitude of South America. The analysis was performed considering HILDCAA (high-intensity, long-duration, continuous auroral electrojet (AE) activity) events and geomagnetic storms. The characteristics of storm-time TEC and HILDCAA-associated TEC will be presented and discussed. For both case studies presented in this work (March and August 2013) the HILDCAA event follows a geomagnetic storm, and then a global scenario of geomagnetic disturbances will be discussed. Solar wind parameters, geomagnetic indices, O ∕ N2 ratios retrieved by GUVI instrument onboard the TIMED satellite and TEC observations will be analyzed and discussed. Data from the RBMC/IBGE (Brazil) and IGS GNSS networks were used to calculate TEC over South America. We show that a HILDCAA event may generate larger TEC differences compared to the TEC observed during the main phase of the precedent geomagnetic storm; thus, a HILDCAA event may be more effective for ionospheric response in comparison to moderate geomagnetic storms, considering the seasonal conditions. During the August HILDCAA event, TEC enhancements from  ∼  25 to 80 % (compared to quiet time) were observed. These enhancements are much higher than the quiet-time variability observed in the ionosphere. We show that ionosphere is quite sensitive to solar wind forcing and considering the events studied here, this was the most important source of ionospheric responses. Furthermore, the most important source of TEC changes were the long-lasting PPEFs observed on August 2013, during the HILDCAA event. The importance of this study relies on the peculiarity of the region analyzed characterized by high declination angle and ionospheric gradients which are responsible for creating a complex response during disturbed periods.

Short summary
The total electron content (TEC) is being extensively used to monitor the ionospheric behavior under geomagnetically quiet and disturbed conditions. The TEC presents significant changes during geomagnetic disturbed periods, causing degradation of signals in navigation systems and satellite communication. The geomagnetically disturbed periods occur due to enhanced solar activity and we show that the TEC presents intensifications not only during geomagnetic storms but also during HILDCAA events.