• data assimilation;
  • tomography;
  • Kalman filter;
  • objective analysis

[1] With the advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements (from both ground-based and satellite-based receivers), the number of available ionospheric measurements has dramatically increased. Total electron content (TEC) measurements from GPS instruments augment observations from more traditional ionospheric instruments like ionospheric sounders and Langmuir probes. This volume of data creates both an opportunity and a need for the observations to be collected into coherent synoptic scale maps. This paper describes the Ionospheric Data Assimilation Three-Dimensional (IDA3D), an ionospheric objective analysis algorithm. IDA3D uses a three-dimensional variational data assimilation technique (3DVAR), similar to those used in meteorology. IDA3D incorporates available data, the associated data error covariances, a reasonable background specification, and the expected background error covariance into a coherent specification on a global grid. It is capable of incorporating most electron density related measurements including GPS-TEC measurements, low-Earth-orbiting “beacon” TEC, and electron density measurements from radars and satellites. At present, the background specification is based upon empirical ionospheric models, but IDA3D is capable of using any global ionospheric specification as a background. In its basic form, IDA3D produces a spatial analysis of the electron density distribution at a specified time. A time series of these specifications can be created using past specifications to determine the background for the current analysis. IDA3D specifications are able to reproduce dynamic features of electron density, including the movement of the auroral boundary and the strength of the trough region.