Plasma characteristics of polar cap F-layer arcs


  • H. C. Carlson Jr.,

  • V. B. Wickwar,

  • E. J. Weber,

  • J. Buchau,

  • J. G. Moore,

  • W. Whiting


First results are reported of a comprehensive campaign to measure ionospheric structure and dynamics of nighttime polar cap F-layer or F-region arcs. Airborne optical and digital ionosonde data were collected simultaneously with ground based incoherent scatter radar data, continuously over many hours in time and 500 to 1000 km in space. Polar cap F-region sub-visual auroral arcs, which are commonly observed during quiet magnetic conditions, are found to represent boundaries (or shears) in the polar cap plasma circulation pattern. F-region electron concentration enhancements are found in these features and can be of significance to polar thermospheric circulation, composition, and thermal structure. The quiet polar ionosphere is so structured that high time resolution intensified optical images of thermospheric emmissions can make a major contribution to interpretation of incoherent scatter radar data.