Review of the generation mechanisms of post-midnight irregularities in the equatorial and low-latitude ionosphere

Research paper by Yuichi Otsuka

Indexed on: 21 Sep '18Published on: 20 Sep '18Published in: Progress in Earth and Planetary Science


This paper provides a brief review of ionospheric irregularities that occur in magnetically equatorial and low-latitude regions post-midnight during low solar activity periods. Ionospheric irregularities can occur in equatorial plasma bubbles. Plasma bubbles are well-known to frequently occur post-sunset when the solar terminator is nearly parallel to the geomagnetic field lines (during equinoxes at the longitude where the declination of the geomagnetic field is almost equal to zero and near the December solstice at the longitude where the declination is tilted westward), especially during high solar activity conditions via the Rayleigh–Taylor instability. However, recent observations during a solar minimum period show a high occurrence rate of irregularities post-midnight around the June solstice. The mechanisms for generating the post-midnight irregularities are still unknown, but two candidates have been proposed. One candidate is the seeding of the Rayleigh–Taylor instability by atmospheric gravity waves propagating from below into the ionosphere. The other candidate is the uplift of the F layer by the meridional neutral winds in the thermosphere, which may be associated with midnight temperature maximums in the thermosphere.