Longitudinal variability of equatorial plasma bubbles observed by DMSP and ROCSAT-1

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Abstract

[1] We compare observations of equatorial plasma bubbles (EPBs) by polar-orbiting satellites of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) with plasma density measurements from the Republic of China Satellite (ROCSAT-1) in a low-inclination orbit. DMSP data were acquired in the evening sector at low magnetic latitudes between 1989 and 2002. ROCSAT-1 plasma densities were measured in March and April of 2000 and 2002. Observations of individual EPBs detected by both ROCSAT-1 and DMSP were well correlated when satellite orbital paths crossed the same longitude within approximately ±15 min. We compiled a statistical database of ROCSAT-1 EPB occurrence rates sorted by magnetic local time (MLT), magnetic latitude, and geographic longitude. The rate of ROCSAT-1 EPB encounters at topside altitudes rose rapidly after 1930 MLT and peaked between 2000 and 2200 MLT, close to the orbital planes of DMSP F12, F14, and F15. EPB encounter rates have Gaussian distributions centered on the magnetic equator with half widths of ∼8°. Longitudinal distributions observed by ROCSAT-1 and DMSP are qualitatively similar, with both showing significantly fewer occurrences than expected near the west coast of South America. A chain of GPS receivers extending from Colombia to Chile measured a west-to-east gradient in S4 indices that independently confirms the existence of a steep longitudinal gradient in EPB occurrence rates. We suggest that precipitation of energetic particles from the inner radiation belt causes the dearth of EPBs. Enhancements in the postsunset ionospheric conductance near the South Atlantic Anomaly cause a decrease in growth rate for the generalized Rayleigh-Taylor instability. Results indicate substantial agreement between ROCSAT-1 and DMSP observations and provide new insights on EPB phenomenology.

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