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Velocity of Decameter Electrojet Irregularities Under Strongly Driven Conditions

by Gorin, James Donald

Abstract (Summary)
The Earth ionosphere is a highly inhomogeneous medium containing electron density irregularities of various scales, from hundreds of kilometers to tens of centimeters. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for their formation is an important task for various practical applications such as communication, navigation, and safe satellite operation. Of special interest are the decameter irregularities that are abundant at E region heights of ~ 100 120 km. These are excited when enhanced electric field and plasma drifts are setup in the ionosphere. This thesis is aimed at studying the physics of decameter irregularity formation at E region heights with a focus on the extreme conditions of very strong electric fields (plasma flows) of > 50 mV/m (1000 m/s) for which the so called Farley-Buneman (FB) plasma instability is the dominating mechanism of irregularity excitation. The relationship between the irregularity velocity and plasma drift is investigated by considering data of the SuperDARN radar located at Stokkseyri, Iclenad. The radar detects echoes from the irregularities and is thus capable of measuring their velocity. The DMSP satellites measure the plasma drifts in situ at heights of ~ 800 km, but these measurements can be projected onto E region heights at high latitudes. By comparing the radar and satellite data in one direction, we show that irregularity velocity is smaller than the plasma drift by a factor of 2 3 with the stronger difference at faster flows. This contrasts with the theoretical expectation for the velocity to be close to 400 m/s, the nominal ion-acoustic speed at electrojet heights. A two-dimensional comparison is performed by considering a subset of the observations for which the HF echo velocity showed a cosine type variation with the radar look direction. This class of echoes is consistent with predictions of recent theories of the Farley-Buneman instability, but the irregularity velocity magnitude was found to be smaller than the ion-acoustic speed with occasional occurrence of velocities as small as 100 m/s. This implies that either recent theories of the Farley-Buneman instability should be modified or that the typical height of HF echoes is typically below 100 km. Various other properties of decameter irregularities are investigated and discussed in view of the existing theories.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Koustov, A, V.; Tse, John; St.-Maurice, Jean-Pierre; McWilliams, Kathryn; Smolyakov, Andrei; Morozov, Igor

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:space physics ionospheric irregularities

ISBN:

Date of Publication:09/22/2008

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