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Large scale plasma density perturbations in the polar F-region ionosphere



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The most compelling evidence of the complex interaction between the geomagnetic field of the Earth and the magnetic field of the Sun is found in the polar ionosphere. Large scale F-region plasma density perturbations result from the coupling between the two fields. Plasma density enhancements known as ionization patches, and depletions can have lifetimes of several hours in the F region and are almost always present everywhere throughout the nighttime polar ionosphere. The perturbations can seed ionospheric irregularities that severely hamper communication and navigational networks, even during times of subdued geomagnetic activity. Up until recently, it has been difficult to study the perturbations due to the remoteness of their location. In the past decade an array of optical and radio instruments have been deployed to the Canadian sector of the Arctic, enabling a more thorough sampling of the polar ionosphere and the large scale perturbations therein. In this work, common volume measurements from the Rankin Inlet Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), Resolute Bay Incoherent Scatter Radar - North (RISR-N) and Optical Mesosphere and Thermosphere Imagers (OMTI) system at Resolute Bay are employed to investigate the generation mechanisms, transport properties, and optical and radio signatures of the large scale perturbations. A model connecting the optical signatures of patches to their velocity profile through the ionosphere is introduced and applied to OMTI data. In addition, an algorithm is developed to detect the presence of patches using RISR-N. Using the algorithm, a survey of patches sampled over several days is conducted, providing a comprehensive account of the variable polar ionosphere in terms of its plasma state parameters. Furthermore, the algorithm is used to diagnose patches as a primary source of coherent backscatter for the Rankin Inlet SuperDARN radar. Lastly, the generation of a deep plasma density depletion is analyzed using the three aforementioned instruments. Using a model, it is shown that such perturbations can be forged by intense frictional heating events in the polar ionosphere on a time scale of 15 minutes, and can subsequently be transported through the region.



F-region, polar ionosphere, polar cap, ionization patch, polar-cap aurora, sun aligned arc



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Physics and Engineering Physics




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