A fluid dispersion relation for the drift and interchange (Rayleigh-Taylor) modes in a collisional plasma forms the basis for a linear theory of equatorial spread F. The collisional drift mode growth rate will exceed the growth rate of the Rayleigh-Taylor mode at short perpendicular wavelengths and density gradient scale lengths, and the drift mode can grow on top side as well as on bottom side density gradients. However, below the F peak, where spread F predominates, we conclude that both the drift and the Rayleigh-Taylor modes contribute to the total spread F spectrum, the Rayleigh-Taylor mode dominating at long and the drift mode at short perpendicular wavelengths above the ion Larmor radius.
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