Effects of electric fields and other processes upon the nighttime high-latitude F layer


  • R. W. Schunk,

  • P. M. Banks,

  • W. J. Raitt


We have studied the dynamics of the nighttime high-latitude F region with special emphasis on the formation of the electron density trough region which lies equatorward of the auroral oval. It is found that the absence of photoionization together with ordinary ionic recombination and slow plasma convection velocity can give a deep trough over a period of many hours. However, the normal global pattern of electric fields has regions of plasma convection sufficiently rapid to affect the rate of O+ + N2 reactions and to speed the rate of ionospheric decay. In addition, the escape of thermal plasma via the polar wind as well as N2 vibrational excitation and enhanced N2 densities act to deplete the ionosphere. In combination these destructive processes can readily account for the great variety of troughs found by experimentation. Thus it appears that there is no single cause for the observed troughs but that at various times, different processes act together to create density depressions of substantial magnitude.