First observations of RF backscatter from field-aligned irregularities produced by ionospheric heating


  • George D. Thome,

  • David W. Blood


A series of experiments was conducted with HF and VHF radars at White Sands, New Mexico, during the months of October 1970 and June 1971 to search for direct RF backscatter from ionospheric irregularities produced by the Platteville heater. The observations were made from White Sands because radars at this location view the heated volume normal to the earth's magnetic field lines. Direct echoes from the heated volume were unquestionably observed. Returns were obtained at frequencies up to the highest available at the HF radar site: 30 MHz during the first series of observations and 54 MHz during the second. The echoes were observed only after sunset, at times when the local plasma frequency over Platteville was of the order of 5 MHz at the layer maximum. The total radar scattering cross section of the heated volume was found to decrease with increasing frequency and to vary from less than 104 m2 (the minimum detectable cross section) to 109 m2, depending on frequency and time of day. The Doppler spectrum of the returns indicated that the drift velocity of the scatterers through the heated volume was greater than the relative velocity between scatterers and comparable to the drift velocity of natural irregularities at midlatitudes.