Ionospheric storm time dynamics as seen by GPS tomography and in situ spacecraft observations

During major geomagnetic storms anomalous enhancements of the ionospheric density are seen at high and middle latitudes. A number of physical mechanisms have been invoked to explain these storm time density anomalies including an expansion of high-latitude electric plasma convection to midlatitudes, thermospheric neutral winds, and changes in the ionospheric composition. However, it remains unclear which mechanism plays the dominant role in the formation of storm time density anomalies, partly because of insufficient coverage of the measurements of global electric convection and thermospheric winds at midlatitudes. This paper describes a novel technique for extracting the storm time E × B convection boundary from in situ measurements of plasma bulk motion obtained by LEO DMSP satellites. The convection boundary estimated from the DMSP data during major magnetic storm of 20 November 2003 has been compared with the global distributions of the ionospheric plasma deduced from characteristics of GPS signals acquired by a ground-based network of GPS receivers. The tomographic inversion of GPS data using a three-dimensional time-dependent inversion technique reveals the spatial and temporal evolution of the storm time density anomaly. Comparison between the tomographic reconstructions of the ionospheric plasma distributions and in situ DMSP measurements of plasma bulk motion suggests that the convective flow expanded low enough in latitude to encompass, in part, the formation of the midlatitude TEC anomaly. Some features of the TEC dynamics observed during the 20 November 2003 storm, however, suggest that mechanisms other than the expanded ionospheric convection (such as thermospheric neutral winds) are also involved in the formation of the midlatitude anomaly.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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