Analysis of differential GPS performance for marine users during solar maximum



[1] GPS signals are refracted by the dispersive ionosphere, resulting in ranging errors dependent on both the given signal frequency and ionospheric total electron content. Such range errors translate into a degradation of positioning accuracies. While it is possible to mitigate the impact of ionospheric effects on GPS positioning applications through ionosphere modeling and/or differential techniques (DGPS), residual errors may persist in regions where steep gradients or localized irregularities in electron density exist, particularly during periods of high geomagnetic activity. Such effects are an issue for the reliable implementation of safety-critical GPS systems. A solar maximum was observed in mid 2000 with associated degradations in GPS positioning accuracies. In this paper the impact of solar maximum on DGPS horizontal positioning applications is investigated. Analyses focus on determining limitations in horizontal positioning accuracies for operational marine DGPS systems. Long-term analyses are conducted using data from permanent GPS reference networks in Canada, Brazil, and the United States. Several million observations are processed in this study during the years 1998–2000. Studies focus on large ionospheric gradients near the equatorial anomaly and at subauroral latitudes (associated with the main trough and storm-enhanced densities). Results indicate that DGPS horizontal positioning accuracies are degraded by a factor of 2–5 relative to average values.