A strong positive phase of ionospheric storms observed by the Millstone Hill incoherent scatter radar and global GPS network

Chao Song Huang, J. C. Foster, L. P. Goncharenko, P. J. Erickson, W. Rideout, A. J. Coster

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[1] During geomagnetic storms, the ionospheric F region electron density may be greatly increased or decreased, which are termed positive storms or negative storms. It is generally accepted that negative storm phases are caused by neutral composition changes. In contrast, different mechanisms have been proposed to explain the generation of positive storm phases. In this paper, we present observations of a strong positive storm at middle latitudes. The Millstone Hill incoherent scatter radar detected significant increases of the midlatitude ionospheric F region electron density during a magnetic storm on 3 April 2004. The positive phase of the ionospheric storm started to occur in the morning sector (0912 LT at Millstone Hill) and lasted for more than 10 hours. Compared with the quiet-time ionosphere, the daytime F peak altitude over Millstone Hill during the storm was ∼80 km higher, the F region electron density was increased by a factor of 2-4, and the F region electron temperature was decreased by ∼1000 K (or ∼40%). The radar also measured an enhanced eastward electric field and a slightly more equatorward neutral wind. Global GPS measurements show that total electron content (TEC) was increased at middle latitudes and decreased at lower latitudes, and the large TEC enhancements occurred primarily in the Atlantic sector. We suggest that electric fields may play an important role in the generation of the observed positive storm phase. The eastward electric field will cause increases in the midlatitude ionospheric electron density by moving the plasma particles upward and decreases in the equatorial ionospheric electron density by strengthening the fountain effect. The daytime poleward wind was reduced or even reversed during the storm, which may also contribute to the occurrence of the positive storm.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA06303
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue numberA6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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