Broad plasma decreases in the equatorial ionosphere

Author: C. Y. Huang, F. A. Marcos, P. A. Roddy, M. R. Hairston, W. R. Coley, Christopher J. Roth, S. Bruinsma and D. E. Hunton
August 6, 2009
Journal Article
Geophysical Research Letters

Huang, C. Y., F. A. Marcos, P. A. Roddy, M. R. Hairston, W. R. Coley, C. Roth, S. Bruinsma, and D. E. Hunton (2009), Broad plasma decreases in the equatorial ionosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L00C04, doi:10.1029/2009GL039423.

During June 2008 broad plasma density decreases (BPDs) were detected repeatedly by the Planar Langmuir Probe (PLP) on board the Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite. These density minima, not to be confused with Equatorial Plasma Bubbles (EPBs), occurred within 15° of the equator, consisted of reductions in plasma density up to an order of magnitude and extended across several degrees in azimuth along the orbit. Analysis revealed that the BPDs occurred nearly daily from May through July 2008 on C/NOFS, and that the widest BPDs were observed in the vicinity of the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA). Similar BPDs simultaneous with the C/NOFS measurements were observed by instruments on the CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) and Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites. An examination of plasma densities observed by the DMSP satellites over several years revealed that these phenomena were a frequent occurrence during (1) the period around June solstices; during (2) solar minimum years; (3) in the vicinity of the SAA. Neutral densities were examined during periods when BPDs were detected, and at times there are simultaneous neutral depletions. One possible explanation is a decrease in temperature of both ions and neutrals in the equatorial region at these times, consistent with downwelling in the ionosphere and thermosphere. Measurements of plasma temperatures on DMSP support this hypothesis.