Using ionospheric scintillation observations for studying the morphology of equatorial ionospheric bubbles



[1] For a study of the equatorial ionosphere, ionospheric scintillation data at VHF and L-band frequencies have been routinely collected by ground-based receivers at Ancon, Peru, Antofagasta, Chile, and Ascension Island, UK, since May 1994. The receivers routinely monitor VHF transmissions from two geosynchronous satellites located at 100°W longitude and 23°W longitude, and L-band signals from satellites located at 75°W longitude and 15°W longitude. This combination provides a network of seven usable, reasonably separated links for monitoring ionospheric equatorial bubble activity in the South American longitude sector. A data set of seven years covering the period from 1995 to 2001 was studied to determine the temporal, diurnal, and seasonal behavior of equatorial bubbles. The results of our statistical study are presented here. In general the equatorial ionospheric bubble activity shows a strong systematic and primary dependence in temporal, diurnal, and seasonal variation, and a secondary weak dependence on geomagnetic and solar flux activity. At present, the dependence on solar and magnetic activity is not usable for near-time and short-term prediction of the equatorial bubble activity. Equatorial bubbles usually start 1 hour after sunset, the activity peaks before local midnight, and vanishes by early morning. The activity peaks in the months of November and January–February and is practically absent (weak) from May to August. On a daily basis on the average one sees 1 to 3 bubbles. The duration of bubbles is about 70 min, and the time spacing between the bubbles is 1 to 2 hours. The bubble activity in general follows the phase of solar cycle activity. The observed systematic behavior of the equatorial bubbles allows for a now cast and short-term forecast of the bubble activity in the South American sector.