Geophysical Research Letters

Caribbean Ionosphere Campaign, year one: Airglow and plasma observations during two intense mid-latitude spread-F events



A series of campaigns has been carried out in the Caribbean over a one-year period to study intense mid-latitude spread-F events using a cluster of diversified instrumentation. These events are relatively rare but a number of them have now been captured and will be discussed in this and several companion papers. This paper focuses on 630 nm airglow images obtained by the Cornell All-Sky Imager for two of the more spectacular cases that began on February 17, 1998 and February 17, 1999. In the latter case, and for the first time, a poleward surge of depletion/enhancement airglow zones was captured by radar as well as an airglow imager. In the former case structures grew in place overhead and produced strong VHF F-region backscatter as observed by the CUPRI and University of Illinois radars; the other event, exactly one year later, did not result in detectable 3-m backscatter. The two data sets show quantitatively that the low airglow region is elevated in height and depleted in plasma density and Pedersen conductivity. We suggest an enhanced eastward electric field inside the low conductivity zone may be responsible for the surge. The data also suggest small scale turbulence can only be observed in developing structures.