The equatorial ionosphere endured plasma density irregularities during a geomagnetic storm on 21–22 December 2014. To understand the underlying mechanism, we analyzed the rate of the total electron content change (ROTI) data obtained from a global navigation satellite system, along with solar wind, interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), geomagnetic indices, Jicamarca incoherent scatter radar, and magnetometer data. The results indicate that the ROTI enhancement related to plasma density irregularities (plasma bubbles) occurred three times in the equatorial and low latitude regions of the American sector during the geomagnetic storm. The first, second, and third enhancements which have a longitudinal extent of ∼20° appeared in the post-sunset, pre-midnight, and post-midnight sectors, respectively. The second enhancement occurred during the recovery phase of the storm-time substorm even though the IMF remained southward. During this period, the direction of the dayside equatorial electrojet (EEJ) changed from eastward to westward, while the nightside upward plasma velocity at Jicamarca increased to 28.8 m/s. The response of the EEJ and upward ion drift implies that the westward and eastward electric fields were intensified on the dayside and nightside, respectively. Therefore, these results suggest that an over-shielding electric field penetrates the dayside/nightside equator simultaneously in association with a substorm recovery phase, and that the electric field generates plasma bubbles by the Rayleigh-Taylor instability mechanism. Plasma bubbles induced by the penetration of an over-shielding electric field due to substorm activity have not previously been reported.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Space and Planetary Science