• High frequency backscatter from the polar and auroral e-region ionosphere

      Forsythe, Victoriya V.; Bristow, William; Conde, Mark; Sahr, John; Zhang, Hui (2017-05)
      The Earth's ionosphere contains collisional and partially-ionized plasma. The electric field, produced by the interaction between the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind, drives the plasma bulk motion, also known as convection, in the F-region of the ionosphere. It can also destabilize the plasma in the E-region, producing irregularities or waves. Intermediatescale waves with wavelengths of hundreds of meters can cause scintillation and fading of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, whereas the small-scale waves (< 100 m) can scatter radar signals, making possible detection of these plasma structures and measurements of their characteristics such as their phase velocity and intensity. In this work, production of the decameter-scale (10 m) irregularities in the ionospheric E-region (100-120 km in altitude) at high latitudes is investigated both theoretically, using linear fluid theory of plasma instability processes that generate small-scale plasma waves, and experimentally, by analyzing data collected with the newly-deployed high-southern-latitude radars within the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN). The theoretical part of this work focuses on symmetry properties of the general dispersion relation that describes wave propagation in the collisional plasma in the two-stream and gradient-drift instability regimes. The instability growth rate and phase velocity are examined under the presence of a background parallel electric field, whose influence is demonstrated to break the spatial symmetry of the wave propagation patterns. In the observational part of this thesis, a novel dual radar setup is used to examine E-region irregularities in the magnetic polar cap by probing the E-region along the same line from opposite directions. The phase velocity analysis together with raytracing simulations demonstrated that, in the polar cap, the radar backscatter is primarily controlled by the plasma density conditions. In particular, when the E-region layer is strong and stratified, the radar backscatter properties are controlled by the convection velocity, whereas for a tilted E-layer, the height and aspect angle conditions are more important. Finally, the fundamental dependence of the E-region irregularity phase velocity on the component of the plasma convection is investigated using two new SuperDARN radars at high southern latitudes where plasma convection estimates are accurately deduced from all SuperDARN radars in the southern hemisphere. Statistical analysis is presented showing that the predominance of the E-region echoes of a particular polarity is strongly dictated by the orientation of the convection plasma ow which itself has a significant asymmetry towards westward zonal flow.