GPS normalization and preliminary modeling results of total electron content during a midlatitude space weather event


  • Jonathan J. Makela,

  • Michael C. Kelley,

  • Jan J. Sojka,

  • Xiaoqing Pi,

  • Anthony J. Mannucci


On November 22–23, 1997, a geomagnetic storm occurred during a period of excellent viewing conditions over the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Here we explore the total electron content (TEC) registered by Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers located close to the Cornell All-Sky Imager (CASI) at the Arecibo Observatory. The storm began with the equatorward surge of a very high (100% increase) TEC enhancement stretching for many hours of local time on the dayside. At dusk the TEC over the Caribbean remained elevated with levels equal to the noontime monthly averages. During the event the TEC was highly structured and clearly correlated with high and low airglow emission levels. In one fortuitous instance a common ionospheric penetration point (15 km apart), shared by two GPS satellites viewed from two receiving stations, registered an 8 TEC unit difference during the active period. We show that a GPS station can be calibrated using the pseudorange method and a reliable data-driven technique during quiet conditions and still have absolute TEC capability within 2 TEC units (RMS) 5 days later. We compare the observations to a climatological model which, although reasonable for quiet times, is very poor during the storm period. We also present an independent evaluation of the GPS TEC. This study is an initial step toward quality control of this database, needed before it is used in an assimilation model.