Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

Spread F and the structure of equatorial ionization depletions in the southern anomaly region


  • G. S. Sales,

  • B. W. Reinisch,

  • J. L. Scali,

  • C. Dozois,

  • T. W. Bullett,

  • E. J. Weber,

  • P. Ning


Combined optical and radio sensors provide a unique characterization of the structure of equatorial emission depletion regions connected to rising bubbles over the magnetic equator. In Chile, as part of the MISETA campaign in fall 1994, a CCD-enhanced all-sky imaging photometer provided optical images of the postsunset appearance and motions of the depletion bands at a magnetic dip latitude of 11°S. Concurrently, a Digisonde collocated with the photometer monitored the appearance of spread F. In between the ionograms, the sounder operated as a Doppler interferometer identifying the locations of F layer irregularities associated with the spread F. They were found to lie inside the emission depletion regions. The HF sounder, requiring orthogonality with the field-aligned F layer irregularities to generate the spread structure, tracked these irregularities inside the emission depletion bands as they drifted eastward. Ray tracing simulations show that the radio waves become trapped within the depletion regions when the depletions are within 300 km of the sounder site. Model calculations indicate that the sounder rays encounter orthogonality with the Earth's magnetic field within the depletion bubble southward from the site, consistent with the local dip angle. The combination of optical images with HF radio sounding demonstrated that radio imaging in the equatorial ionosphere can be done with a digital ionosonde that operates as a Doppler interferometer. The Digisonde measurements and ray tracing show for the first time that the spread F signatures on ionograms are the result of coherent scatter from irregularities primarily within the walls of the depletion.