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  1. Abstract

    The Communications/Navigation Outages Forecast System satellite mission was designed to investigate the ionospheric conditions that lead to the formation of irregularities. Here, we have studied the effect of magnetic storms on the formation and evolution of plasma bubbles during the satellite's lifetime (2008–2015). During this period encompassing solar minimum and maximum conditions, many magnetic storms of varying intensity developed, producing a unique and rich data set of 248 storms (14 intense, 69 moderate, and 165 weak) that occurred during the same timeframe to examine the role of external magnetospheric drivers in the production and dynamics of equatorial plasma bubbles. We have used the Planar Langmuir Probe and Ion Velocity Meter instruments to elucidate the role of magnetic storm intensity on the bubble's depth, internal speed, width, occurrence, and lifetime. The pre‐reversal enhancement (PRE) tends to increase during the main phase and when BZis southward. New bubbles occur during large excursions of the PRE value. The bubble lifetime extends and remains active during the main and part of the recovery phase. The plasma velocity within the bubbles increases and typically becomes over 100 m/s during significant PRE and BZnegative times. The depth of bubbles reaches values close to 100% during intense storms. In general, the intensity of the storms seems to control and augment the plasma bubbles' depth, width, and internal velocity.

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  2. Abstract

    The 14‐panel Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR‐14) system deployed at Jicamarca observed equatorial spread F plumes on two consecutive nights under unfavorable seasonal and solar flux conditions during a period that can be categorized as geomagnetically quiet. The AMISR‐14 capability of observing in multiple pointing directions allowed the characterization of the irregularity zonal drifts revealing that, in addition to their atypical occurrence, the zonal drifts of these plumes/irregularities also presented distinct patterns from one night to another, reversing from east to west on the second night. This work addresses two main subjects: (a) the mechanisms that may have led to the generation of these irregularities, despite the unfavorable conditions, and (b) the mechanisms that possibly led to the reversal (east‐to‐west) in the zonal plasma drift on the second night. To do so a multi‐instrumented and multi‐location investigation was performed. The results indicate the occurrence of simultaneous spread‐F events over the Peruvian and the Brazilian regions, evidencing a non‐local process favoring the development of the irregularities. The results also suggest that, even under very mild geomagnetic perturbation conditions, the recurring penetration of electric fields in the equatorial ionosphere can occur promptly, modifying the equatorial electrodynamics and providing favorable conditions for the plume development. Moreover, the results confirm that the eastward penetration electric fields, combined with the upsurge of Hall conductivity in the nighttime typically associated with the presence of sporadic‐E layers, are likely to be the mechanism leading to the reversal in the irregularity zonal drifts over these regions.

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  3. Abstract

    Total electron content (TEC) and L‐band scintillations measured by several networks of GPS and GNSS receivers that operate in South and Central America and the Caribbean region are used to observe the morphology of the equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA), examine the evolution of plasma bubbles, and investigate the enhancement of L‐band scintillations that occurred on February 12 and 13, 2016. A few weak and short magnetic storms developed these days, and a minor sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event was initiated a few days before. During these unusual conditions, TEC maps reported a split of the otherwise continuous crests of the EIA and the formation of a large‐scale (thousands of kilometers) almost‐circular structure. The western part of the southern crest faded, and a north‐south aligned segment developed near the center of the South American continent, joining the north and south crests of the EIA, forming an anomaly that resembled a closed loop on the eastern side of the continent. Concurrently with the anomaly events, several GPS stations reported increases in the L‐band scintillation index from 0.4 to values greater than 1. We analyzed TEC values from receivers between ±6° from the magnetic equator to identify and follow TEC depletions associated with plasma bubbles when they reach different stations. Although the magnetic activity was moderate (Kp = 3°), we believe that the anomaly redistribution and the scintillation enhancements are not related to a prompt penetration electric field but to enhancing the semidiurnal lunar tide propitiated by the onset of the minor SSW event. We found that depending on the lunar tide phase cycle, the neutral wind's meridional component can augment sub‐km scale irregularities and enhance L‐band scintillations through the wind gradient instability when U·n < 0 or the action of wind gradients (U) within the bubbles. Our observations imply that the SSW event enables prominent changes in the thermosphere wind system at F‐region altitudes.

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  4. Abstract

    After sunset, in the equatorial regions ionospheric plasma irregularities are generated due to the generalized Rayleigh‐Taylor instability. Under favorable conditions these irregularities develop in the equatorial region while mapping along the magnetic field lines giving rise to large plasma depletion structures called Equatorial Plasma Bubbles with embedded smaller structures on their walls. The global navigation satellite system (GNSS) L1 band frequency is sensitive to irregularities of the size of 300–400 m in the first Fresnel zone, which cause scattering and diffraction of the signal and produce amplitude and/or phase scintillation. Severe scintillation of GNSS signals can in turn cause loss of lock of the receiver code and/or carrier loops. As a result, GNSS navigation and positioning solution can be adversely affected by the ionospheric scintillation. There are multiple GNSS receivers designed to monitor scintillations. These receivers are based on different hardware designs and use different methodologies to process the raw data. When using simultaneous data from different GNSS scintillation monitors it is important to evaluate and compare their performances under similar scintillation conditions. The scintillation monitoring techniques may be useful for many applications that use GNSS signal. The aim of this work is to evaluate the performance of six different GNSS receivers located at São José dos Campos (23.1°S, 45.8°W, dip latitude 17.3°S) during moderate and strong scintillation activity. The amplitude (S4) and phase (σϕ) scintillation indexes from these receivers were analyzed and compared for the nights February 20–21 and November 27–28, 2013.

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  5. Abstract

    During geomagnetically quiet and solar minimum conditions, spatial variations of the early morning thermosphere‐ionosphere (TI) system are expected to be mainly governed by wave dynamics. To study the postmidnight dynamical coupling, we investigated the early morning equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) using Global‐scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) measurements of OI‐135.6 nm nightglow emission and global navigation satellite system (GNSS)‐based total electron content (TEC) maps. The EIA structures in the OI‐135.6 nm emission over the American landmass resemble, spatially and temporally, those observed in the GNSS‐TEC maps. The early morning EIA (EM‐EIA) crests are well separated in latitude and mostly located over the middle of South America during October–November. In February–April the crests are less separated in latitude and predominantly located over the west coast sector of South America. Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model with thermosphere and ionosphere eXtension (WACCMX) simulations with constant solar minimum and quiet‐geomagnetic conditions show that EM‐EIA can occur globally and shows properties similar to longitudinal Wave 4 pattern. Thus, we propose that EM‐EIA is driven by dynamical changes associated with the lower atmospheric waves.

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