Naturally enhanced ion acoustic waves in the auroral ionosphere observed with the EISCAT 933-MHz radar


  • M. T. Rietveld,

  • P. N. Collis,

  • J.-P. St.-Maurice


Observations of strongly enhanced ion acoustic shoulders of the incoherent scatter spectrum at 933 MHz at altitudes from 138 to 587 km have been obtained with the European Incoherent Scatter UHF radar. The enhancements can be up to 1 or 2 orders of magnitude in total backscattered power and can occur at either one or both of the ion acoustic shoulders. They show a variation of frequency with height of about 2 to 1, the same as the normal ion line spectral width and the ion temperature. These unusual spectra appear in two preferred height regions having different characteristics, one below 200 km and one above about 300 km. The enhancements are associated with geomagnetic disturbance, high electron temperatures, auroral arcs, and red aurora in the F region. The observations, which are mainly along the magnetic field direction, indicate that field-aligned thermal electron drifts are destabilizing the ion acoustic waves. They confirm and extend the one other publication reporting on similar echoes. We suggest that field-aligned flows of soft electrons depositing their energy at horizontally poor conducting F region heights are the cause of parallel electric fields in the ionosphere. These fields then produce the thermal electron motions that we argue have to be the cause of the observations.