An empirical model of the drift velocity of equatorial plasma depletions

<p>The Far-Ultraviolet Imager on the IMAGE spacecraft (IMAGE-FUV) has been used to observe O<sup>+</sup>plasma depletions in the post-sunset equatorial ionosphere. Small-scale density irregularities associated with such depletions are believed to adversely affect trans-ionospheric radio signals such as GPS. Prediction of the motion of these plasma depletions is a necessary component of the ability to forecast the occurrence of such radio signal interference. An automated method has recently been developed to identify and track the position and zonal drift velocity of these depletions. Here we use this method to create a large database of the zonal drift velocities of these depletions. We present an empirical model based on these observations that describes the observed drift velocities as a function of both local time and magnetic latitude, which is essential to represent their behavior. A comparison of the observed drift velocities with zonal winds from both an empirical model (Horizontal Wind Model; HWM07) and a first-principles model (the TIEGCM) reveals that the plasma depletions\textquoteright drift velocities have a latitudinal gradient that cannot be explained solely by the F-region dynamo in the post-sunset period, at least by these climatological models. This suggests that these plasma depletions may not simply drift with the background F-region plasma. It has previously been suggested that vertical polarization electric fields associated with the plasma depletions are responsible for their zonal drifts exceeding the background flow, which may explain the previously-observed discrepancy in the drift velocities and the discrepancy in their gradients reported here.</p>
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Date Published