Study of total electron content variations over equatorial and low latitude ionosphere during extreme solar minimum

Research paper by Kavita Sharma, R. S. Dabas, Sudha Ravindran

Indexed on: 09 Jun '12Published on: 09 Jun '12Published in: Astrophysics and Space Science


In recent years with the advancement in satellite based navigational applications, study of Total Electron Content (TEC) has gained significant importance. It is well known that due to dynamical behaviour of equatorial and low latitude ionosphere, the levels of ionization is relatively high herein. The sustained decrease in solar extreme ultraviolet radiations during the current minimum is greater than any in recent history. This gives us the opportunity to study the observations of global positioning system total electron content (GPS-TEC) dual frequency signals from the GPS satellites continuously recorded at Trivandrum (an equatorial station) and Delhi (a low latitude station) during the extremely low solar activity period from January 2007 to June 2009. This study illustrates the diurnal, seasonal and annual variations of TEC during the extended solar minimum period. This study also investigates the behaviour of daytime ionosphere around spring and autumn equinoxes at low solar activity period. The results clearly reveal the presence of equinoctial asymmetry which is more pronounced at equatorial station Trivandrum. The diurnal variation of TEC shows a short-lived day minimum which occurs between 0500 to 0600 LT at both the stations. Delhi TEC values show its steep increase and reach at its peak value between 1200 and 1400 LT, while at the equator the peak is broad and occurs around 1600 LT. Further, the daily maximum TEC ranges from about 5 to 40 TEC units at Trivandrum and about 10 to 40 TEC units at Delhi, which correspond to range delay variations of about 1 to 8 m at the GPS L1 frequency of 1.575 GHz. The Maximum values of TEC were observed during spring equinox rather than autumn equinox, showing presence of semi annual variation at both the locations. The minimum values of TEC were observed during the summer solstice at Trivandrum indicating the presence of winter anomaly at equatorial region while Delhi TEC values were minimum during winter solstice showing absence of winter anomaly. Also the TEC values at both the locations have been decreasing since 2007 onwards exhibit good positive correlation with solar activity.