Scintillations, plasma drifts, and neutral winds in the equatorial ionosphere after sunset


  • S. Basu,

  • E. Kudeki,

  • Su. Basu,

  • C. E. Valladares,

  • E. J. Weber,

  • H. P. Zengingonul,

  • S. Bhattacharyya,

  • R. Sheehan,

  • J. W. Meriwether,

  • M. A. Biondi,

  • H. Kuenzler,

  • J. Espinoza


An equatorial campaign was conducted during September 25 to October 7, 1994, to investigate the neutral and plasma dynamics in the equatorial ionosphere after sunset in relation to the day-to-day variability of the occurrence of equatorial spread F (ESF). The campaign was organized under the auspices of National Science Foundation's Multi-Instrumented Studies of the Equatorial Thermosphere Aeronomy program (MISETA), which included the Jicamarca radar, spaced-antenna satellite scintillation, digisonde, all-sky imager, and Fabry-Perot interferometer (FPI) measurements near the magnetic equator in Peru. During a part of the period September 27 to October 3, the Geophysics Directorate of Phillips Laboratory performed measurements away from the magnetic equator at Aguaverde, Chile (magnetic latitude: 11°S) located 800 km to the east of the Jicamarca meridian using geostationary and GPS satellite scintillation, digisonde and all-sky imager systems. The incoherent scatter radar results indicate that the postsunset enhancement of upward plasma drift, even though of the order of only 20 m s−1 during the solar minimum period, is a necessary condition for the generation of ESF. In view of the extreme difficulty of determining the neutral wind speed during the early evening hours by the FPI due to low airglow intensity, it was not possible to unequivocally associate the observed postsunset enhancements with strong eastward neutral winds. However, considering a few observations contiguous to the campaign period, it appears that such a causal relationship may exist. The scintillation drift measurements in Peru and Chile indicated that the zonal irregularity drift was smaller away from the magnetic equator, implying a variation of neutral wind with latitude. This is reproduced in the altitude variation of zonal drift observed by the Jicamarca radar. During a magnetic storm, scintillation measurements indicated that eastward drifts near the magnetic equator are accompanied by westward drifts near the anomaly peak, which is consistent with the effects of a disturbance dynamo. The campaign results indicate that in order to resolve the variability of ESF, a careful probing of neutral dynamics as a function of latitude needs to be undertaken during the postsunset period.