Nonlinear equatorial spread F: Spatially large bubbles resulting from large horizontal scale initial perturbations


  • S.T. Zalesak,

  • S.L. Ossakow


Motivated by the observations of large horizontal scale length equatorial spread F ‘bubbles,’ we have performed numerical simulations of the nonlinear evolution of the collisional Rayleigh-Taylor instability in the nighttime equatorial ionosphere, using large horizontal scale length initial perturbations. The calculations were performed using a new, improved numerical code which utilizes the recently developed, fully multidimensional flux-corrected transport (FCT) techniques. We find that large horizontal scale initial perturbations evolve nonlinearly into equally large horizontal scale spread F bubbles, on a time scale as fast as that of the corresponding small horizontal scale length perturbations previously used. Further, we find the level of plasma depletion inside the large-scale bubbles to be appreciably higher than that of the smaller-scale bubbles, approaching 100%, in substantial agreement with the observations. This level of depletion is due to the fact that the plasma comprising the large-scale bubbles has its origin at much lower altitudes than that comprising the smaller scale bubbles. Analysis of the polarization electric fields produced by the vertically aligned ionospheric irregularities show this effect to be due to fringe fields similar in structure to those produced at the edge of a parallel plate capacitor.