On the Longitudinal Morphology of Zonal Irregularity Drift Measured using Networks of GPS Scintillation Monitors

Monday, 15 December 2014
Charles Salvatore Carrano, Keith M Groves, Cesar E Valladares and Susan H Delay, Boston College, Institute for Scientific Research, Chesnut Hill, MA, United States
A complete characterization of field-aligned ionospheric irregularities responsible for the scintillation of satellite signals includes not only their spectral properties (power spectral strength, spectral index, anisotropy ratio, and outer-scale) but also their horizontal drift velocity. From a system impacts perspective, the horizontal drift velocity is important in that it dictates the rate of signal fading and also, to an extent, the level of phase fluctuations encountered by the receiver. From a physics perspective, studying the longitudinal morphology of zonal irregularity may lead to an improved understanding of the F region dynamo and regional electrodynamics at low latitudes. The irregularity drift at low latitudes is predominantly zonal and is most commonly measured by cross-correlating observations of satellite signals made by a pair of closely-spaced antennas. The AFRL-SCINDA network operates a small number of VHF spaced-antenna systems at low latitude stations for this purpose. A far greater number of GPS scintillation monitors are operated by AFRL-SCINDA (25-30) and the Low Latitude Ionospheric Sensor Network (35-50), but the receivers are situated too far apart to monitor the drift using cross-correlation techniques.

In this paper, we present an alternative approach that leverages the weak scatter scintillation theory (Rino, Radio Sci., 1979) to infer the zonal irregularity drift from single-station GPS measurements of S4, sigma-phi, and the propagation geometry alone. Unlike the spaced-receiver technique, this technique requires assumptions for the height of the scattering layer (which introduces a bias in the drift estimates) and the spectral index of the irregularities (which affects the spread of the drift estimates about the mean). Nevertheless, theory and experiment show that the ratio of sigma-phi to S4 is less sensitive to these parameters than it is to the zonal drift, and hence the zonal drift can be estimated with reasonable accuracy. In this talk, we first validate the technique using spaced VHF-antenna measurements of zonal irregularity drift from the AFRL-SCINDA network. Next, we discuss preliminary results from our investigation into the longitudinal morphology of zonal irregularity drift using the AFRL-SCINDA and LISN networks of GPS scintillation monitors.