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Title: Ionospheric Sluggishness: A Characteristic Time‐Lag of the Ionospheric Response to Solar Flares
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. 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 atmore »least incomplete in that it does not predict the observed lack of patchesin SH winter, or the many large enhancements seen in SH summer« less