Radio Science

Ionospheric total electron content and slab thickness determined in Australia


  • A. M. Breed,

  • G. L. Goodwin,

  • A-M. Vandenberg,

  • E. A. Essex,

  • K. J. W. Lynn,

  • J. H. Silby


Ionospheric total electron content (TEC) and slab thickness (τ) have been determined for southern Australia from July 1991 to June 1995 using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite reception and ionograms (at 5-min intervals) recorded at Salisbury, South Australia, and other Australian ionograms of the Ionospheric Prediction Service Radio and Space Services, Australian Department of Administrative Services. Seasonal, diurnal, and latitudinal variations in TEC and slab thickness are investigated. The removal of possible error sources in GPS measurements such as satellite and receiver biases is considered. Preliminary procedures are outlined in which protonospheric electron content is separated from GPS TEC measurements (up to 20,000 km height) by subtracting Navy Navigation Satellite System (NNSS) measurements (up to 1000 km height). Although slab thickness is substantially constant, there is a trend for increased values at times of reduced solar influence, such as when approaching sunspot minimum. A preliminary report is given of an extension of the current work at Salisbury by using Australian Surveying and Land Information Group GPS receivers at other Australian locations. A comparison is made between the experimental data and values derived from ionospheric models. The two models considered are the international reference ionosphere model (IRI90) and the parameterized ionospheric model ((PIM) version 1.4, February 1996). The GPS TEC measurements near solar minimum were consistently of the order of 5–10 TEC units greater than the model TEC predictions. This difference is attributed to the inclusion of protonospheric TEC in the GPS measurements but not in the model predictions.