Privacy Policy Disclaimer
  Advanced SearchBrowse





Electric and magnetic characteristics of equatorial plasma depletions : an observational assessment using the Swarm mission


Rodríguez-Zuluaga,  J.
2.3 Geomagnetism, 2.0 Geophysics, Departments, GFZ Publication Database, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;

Maute,  Astrid
External Organizations;

Pfaff,  Robert
External Organizations;

Tronicke,  Jens
External Organizations;

Richter,  Philipp
External Organizations;

Denker,  Carsten
External Organizations;

Krüger,  Frank
External Organizations;

Zöller,  Gert
External Organizations;

External Ressource
No external resources are shared
Fulltext (public)
There are no public fulltexts stored in GFZpublic
Supplementary Material (public)
There is no public supplementary material available

Rodríguez-Zuluaga, J. (2020): Electric and magnetic characteristics of equatorial plasma depletions: an observational assessment using the Swarm mission, PhD Thesis, Potsdam : Universität Potsdam, 87 p.

Cite as: https://gfzpublic.gfz-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_5003056
Near-Earth space represents a significant scientific and technological challenge. Particularly at magnetic low-latitudes, the horizontal magnetic field geometry at the dip equator and its closed field-lines support the existence of a distinct electric current system, abrupt electric field variations and the development of plasma irregularities. Of particular interest are small-scale irregularities associated with equatorial plasma depletions (EPDs). They are responsible for the disruption of trans-ionospheric radio waves used for navigation, communication, and Earth observation. The fast increase of satellite missions makes it imperative to study the near-Earth space, especially the phenomena known to harm space technology or disrupt their signals. EPDs correspond to the large-scale structure (i.e., tens to hundreds of kilometers) of topside F region irregularities commonly known as Spread F. They are observed as depleted-plasma density channels aligned with the ambient magnetic field in the post-sunset low-latitude ionosphere. Although the climatological variability of their occurrence in terms of season, longitude, local time and solar flux is well-known, their day to day variability is not. The sparse observations from ground-based instruments like radars and the few simultaneous measurements of ionospheric parameters by space-based instruments have left gaps in the knowledge of EPDs essential to comprehend their variability. In this dissertation, I profited from the unique observations of the ESA’s Swarm constellation mission launched in November 2013 to tackle three issues that revealed novel and significant results on the current knowledge of EPDs. I used Swarm’s measurements of the electron density, magnetic, and electric fields to answer, (1.) what is the direction of propagation of the electromagnetic energy associated with EPDs?, (2.) what are the spatial and temporal characteristics of the electric currents (field-aligned and diamagnetic currents) related to EPDs, i.e., seasonal/geographical, and local time dependencies?, and (3.) under what conditions does the balance between magnetic and plasma pressure across EPDs occur? The results indicate that: (1.) The electromagnetic energy associated with EPDs presents a preference for interhemispheric flows; that is, the related Poynting flux directs from one magnetic hemisphere to the other and varies with longitude and season. (2.) The field-aligned currents at the edges of EPDs are interhemispheric. They generally close in the hemisphere with the highest Pedersen conductance. Such hemispherical preference presents a seasonal/longitudinal dependence. The diamagnetic currents increase or decrease the magnetic pressure inside EPDs. These two effects rely on variations of the plasma temperature inside the EPDs that depend on longitude and local time. (3.) EPDs present lower or higher plasma pressure than the ambient. For low-pressure EPDs the plasma pressure gradients are mostly dominated by variations of the plasma density so that variations of the temperature are negligible. High-pressure EPDs suggest significant temperature variations with magnitudes of approximately twice the ambient. Since their occurrence is more frequent in the vicinity of the South Atlantic magnetic anomaly, such high temperatures are suggested to be due to particle precipitation. In a broader context, this dissertation shows how dedicated satellite missions with high-resolution capabilities improve the specification of the low-latitude ionospheric electrodynamics and expand knowledge on EPDs which is valuable for current and future communication, navigation, and Earth-observing missions. The contributions of this investigation represent several ’firsts’ in the study of EPDs: (1.) The first observational evidence of interhemispheric electromagnetic energy flux and field-aligned currents. (2.) The first spatial and temporal characterization of EPDs based on their associated field-aligned and diamagnetic currents. (3.) The first evidence of high plasma pressure in regions of depleted plasma density in the ionosphere. These findings provide new insights that promise to advance our current knowledge of not only EPDs but the low-latitude post-sunset ionosphere environment.