GPS and in situ Swarm observations of the equatorial plasma density irregularities in the topside ionosphere

Research paper by Irina Zakharenkova, Elvira Astafyeva, Iurii Cherniak

Indexed on: 15 Jul '16Published on: 15 Jul '16Published in: Earth, Planets and Space


Here we study the global distribution of the plasma density irregularities in the topside ionosphere by using the concurrent GPS and Langmuir probe measurements onboard the Swarm satellites. We analyze 18 months (from August 2014 till January 2016) of data from Swarm A and B satellites that flew at 460 and 510 km altitude, respectively. To identify the occurrence of the ionospheric irregularities, we have analyzed behavior of two indices ROTI and RODI based on the change rate of total electron content and electron density, respectively. The obtained results demonstrate a high degree of similarities in the occurrence pattern of the seasonal and longitudinal distribution of the topside ionospheric irregularities derived from both types of the satellite observations. Among the seasons with good data coverage, the maximal occurrence rates for the post-sunset equatorial irregularities reached 35–50 % for the September 2014 and March 2015 equinoxes and only 10–15 % for the June 2015 solstice. For the equinox seasons the intense plasma density irregularities were more frequently observed in the Atlantic sector, for the December solstice in the South American–Atlantic sector. The highest occurrence rates for the post-midnight irregularities were observed in African longitudinal sector during the September 2014 equinox and June 2015 solstice. The observed differences in SWA and SWB results could be explained by the longitude/LT separation between satellites, as SWB crossed the same post-sunset sector increasingly later than the SWA did.