Characteristics of plasma structuring in the cusp/cleft region at Svalbard


  • S. Basu,

  • E. J. Weber,

  • T. W. Bullett,

  • M. J. Keskinen,

  • E. MacKenzie,

  • P. Doherty,

  • R. Sheehan,

  • H. Kuenzler,

  • P. Ning,

  • J. Bongiolatti


Satellite scintillation, all-sky optical imager, and digisonde observations were coordinated during a cusp campaign conducted at Ny Alesund, Svalbard (78.9°N, 11.8°E 75.7°N corrected geomagnetic latitude, over the period January 4–15, 1997. This paper is focused on a study of the distribution and dynamics of mesoscale (tens of kilometers to tens of meters) electron density irregularities in the dayside auroral region. This study has been performed at Ny Alesund, Svalbard, by measuring the effects of these irregularities on the amplitude scintillation of 250-MHz transmissions from a quasi-stationary polar satellite as well as the amplitude and phase scintillation of 1.6-GHz signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. These GPS scintillation measurements were augmented by the use of dual-frequency (1.2 and 1.6 GHz) GPS phase data acquired at the same station by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the International GPS Geodynamic Service (IGS). The continuous 250-MHz scintillation observations explored the daytime auroral ionosphere 2° poleward of Ny Alesund and showed that the scintillation spectra are often broad, as may be expected for irregularities in a turbulent flow region. Such irregularity dynamics were detected poleward of the nominal cusp region over the interval of 0600–1500 magnetic local time. The period of observations included the magnetic storm of January 10–11, 1997, when GPS observations of the IGS detected polar cap patches with total electron contents of 3×1016 m−2 and large-scale (tens of kilometers) phase variations at the GPS frequency of 1.6 GHz that corresponded to temporal gradients of 2×1016 m−2 min−1. However, amplitude scintillations at the GPS frequency of 1.6 GHz could not be detected in association with these large-scale phase variations, indicating that the irregularities with wavelengths less than the Fresnel dimension of 400 m were below the detectable limit. This is shown to be consistent in the context of enhanced ionospheric convection determined by digisonde and scintillation spectra.