Distribution characteristics of topside ionospheric density irregularities: Equatorial versus midlatitude regions

S. Y. Su, C. H. Liu, H. H. Ho, C. K. Chao

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Abstract

The global distribution of the occurrence rate for density irregularities at 600 km topside ionosphere between ±35° geographic latitudes has been studied with the ROCSAT data during moderate to high solar activity years of 1999 to 2004. The result indicates that the global occurrence distribution of the intermediate-scale (0.1 to 50 km) density irregularities can be grouped into two different populations, one in the equatorial region and the other in the middle-to-subauroral latitude region. The global seasonal/longitudinal (s/l) distribution of equatorial irregularities in the current report reproduces the result of McClure et al. (1998) obtained with the AE-E observations of the mesoscale (50 to 1000 km) plasma bubble structures during high solar activity years of 1978 to 1980, two solar cycles ago. This implies that the density irregularities of different scales from multistage cascading process of the large-scale (>1000 km) gravitational Rayleigh-Taylor instability have manifested in same global s/l distribution pattern. Furthermore, global variation in seeding mechanism and growth condition of the instability process that results in major features in global irregularity pattern seems to persist for past 25 years. In addition, the current result further indicates that an upper latitudinal limit of the equatorial irregularity distribution is located at about ±30°. A different kind of midlatitude irregularity distribution starts to fill in from this dip latitude. In other words, the equatorial density irregularity inside a depleted flux tube can only rise, on statistical average, to an apex height of ∼2000 km. Different magnetic and solar variability effects as well as the local time dependence are noted for the occurrences of density irregularities in the equatorial region versus that at midlatitudes. The occurrence frequency of equatorial density irregularities increases with solar flux intensity; whereas the midlatitude density irregularity is more likely to occur during low solar activity period. The equatorial density irregularities are more likely to occur during periods of low magnetic activity than during magnetic disturbed times. On the other hand, the occurrence of midlatitude density irregularities indicates little dependence on geomagnetic activity. The local time distribution of equatorial irregularity peaks before midnight while the midlatitude irregularity indicates a plateau of high occurrence rate after midnight. Such opposite characteristics in the occurrence pattern between these two spatially separated distributions suggest that different instability mechanisms are operated in two different latitude regions for the occurrence of intermediate-scale density irregularities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA06305
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Volume111
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2006

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