F layer ionization patches in the polar cap


  • E. J. Weber,

  • J. Buchau,

  • J. G. Moore,

  • J. R. Sharber,

  • R. C. Livingston,

  • J. D. Winningham,

  • B. W. Reinisch


Ground-based optical and digital ionosonde measurements were conducted at Thule, Greenland to measure ionospheric structure and dynamics in the nighttime polar cap F layer. These observations showed the existence of large-scale (800–1000 km) plasma patches drifting in the antisunward direction during a moderately disturbed (Kp ≥ 4) period. Simultaneous Dynamics Explorer (DE-B) low-altitude plasma instrument (LAPI) measurements show that these patches with peak densities of ∼106 el cm−3 are not locally produced by structured particle precipitation. The LAPI measurements show a uniform precipitation of polar rain electrons over the polar cap. The combined measurements provide a comprehensive description of patch structure and dynamics. They are produced near or equatorward of the dayside auroral zone and convect across the polar cap in the antisunward direction. Gradients within the large scale, drifting patches are subject to structuring by convective instabilities. UHF scintillation and spaced receiver measurements are used to map the resulting irregularity distribution within the patches.