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Title: Annual Occurrence Rates of Ionospheric Polar Cap Patches Observed Using Swarm: Annual Occurrence Rates of Ionospheric Polar Cap Patches Observed Using Swarm
Dense, fast-moving regions of ionization called polar cap patches are known to occur in thehigh-latitudeFregion ionosphere. Patches are widely believed to be caused by convection of dense, sunlitplasma into a dark and therefore low-density polar cap ionosphere. This leads to the belief that patches are awinter phenomenon. Surprisingly, a long-term analysis of 3 years of ionospheric measurements from theSwarm satellites shows that large density enhancements occur far more frequently in local summer than localwinter in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). The reverse is true in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). Previouslyreported patch detections in the SH are reexamined. Detection algorithms using only a relative doubling testcount very small densityfluctuations in SH winter due to extremely low ambient densities found there,while much larger enhancements occurring in SH summer are missed due to especially high ambientdensities. The same problem does not afflict results in the NH, where ambient densities are more stableyear-round due to the ionospheric annual asymmetry. Given this new analysis, the definition of a patch as adoubling of the ambient density is not suitable for the SH. We propose a test for patches linked to long-termaveraged solarflux activity, characterized by the 81 day centered meanF10.7index. Importantly, thecurrent patch formation theory is at least incomplete in that it does not predict the observed lack of patchesin SH winter, or the many large enhancements seen in SH summer  more » « less
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract

    Much theoretical and observational work has been devoted to studying the occurrence ofFregion polar cap patches in the Northern Hemisphere; considerably less work has been applied to the Southern Hemisphere. In recent years, the Madrigal database of mappings of total electron content (TEC) has improved in Southern Hemisphere coverage, to the point that we can now carry out a study of patch frequency and occurrence. We find that Southern Hemisphere patch occurrence is very similar to that of the Northern Hemisphere with a half‐year offset, plus an offset in universal time of approximately 12 hr. This is further supported by running an ionospheric model for both hemispheres and applying the same patch‐to‐background technique. Further, we present a simple physical mechanism involving a sunlit dayside plasma source concurrent with a dark polar cap, which yields a patch‐to‐background pattern very much like that seen in the TEC mappings for both hemispheres.

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