HF Radar for Long-Range Monitoring of Ionospheric Irregularities in the Equatorial Region

Monday, 15 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Todd Ryan Pedersen, Richard T Parris and Eugene V Dao, Air Force Research Laboratory Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM, United States
Ionospheric instabilities associated with plasma bubbles in the equatorial region are one of the major space weather impacts, creating scintillation that affects satellite communications and navigation as well as spread-F and propagation effects on lower frequency systems. Coherent scatter radars can be used to detect the presence of irregularities at a scale size corresponding to half the wavelength of the radar when the raypaths are perpendicular to the magnetic field. A number of vertical incidence radars operating in the VHF range near the magnetic equator use this effect to map out vertical irregularity structure in bubbles, while at high latitudes in both the northern and more recently southern hemisphere, HF radars in the SuperDARN network have successfully used refraction along near-horizontal paths to reach perpendicularity with the near-vertical magnetic field and map out ionospheric convection and irregularity structure over fields of view thousands of km across. In the equatorial region, perpendicularity can be obtained anywhere within a near-vertical plane even without refraction, although refraction can be used to achieve long ranges after one or more reflections from the earth’s surface and bottomside ionosphere. This potentially provides a means of detecting and monitoring equatorial plasma bubbles over the oceans from long ranges using a small number of ground-based sites. We discuss the possible echoes that could be detected by such a system, the likely propagation modes and characteristics, and means of obtaining and utilizing elevation angle information to correctly locate distant plasma bubbles.