Ionospheric response over Europe during the solar eclipse of March 20, 2015
German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Communications and Navigation, Kalkhorstweg 53, 17235
* Corresponding author: email@example.com
Accepted: 5 September 2016
The solar eclipse on March 20, 2015 was a fascinating event for people in Northern Europe. From a scientific point of view, the solar eclipse can be considered as an in situ experiment on the Earth’s upper atmosphere with a well-defined switching off and on of solar irradiation. Due to the strong changes in solar radiation during the eclipse, dynamic processes were initiated in the atmosphere and ionosphere causing a measurable impact, for example, on temperature and ionization. We analyzed the behavior of total ionospheric ionization over Europe by reconstructing total electron content (TEC) maps and differential TEC maps. Investigating the large depletion zone around the shadow spot, we found a TEC reduction of up to 6 TEC units, i.e., the total plasma depletion reached up to about 50%. However, the March 20, 2015 eclipse occurred during the recovery phase of a strong geomagnetic storm and the ionosphere was still perturbed and depleted. Therefore, the unusual high depletion is due to the negative bias of up to 20% already observed over Northern Europe before the eclipse occurred. After removing the negative storm effect, the eclipse-induced depletion amounts to about 30%, which is in agreement with previous observations. During the solar eclipse, ionospheric plasma redistribution processes significantly affected the shape of the electron density profile, which is seen in the equivalent slab thickness derived by combining vertical incidence sounding (VS) and TEC measurements. We found enhanced slab thickness values revealing, on the one hand, an increased width of the ionosphere around the maximum phase and, on the other, evidence for delayed depletion of the topside ionosphere. Additionally, we investigated very low frequency (VLF) signal strength measurements and found immediate amplitude changes due to ionization loss at the lower ionosphere during the eclipse time. We found that the magnitude of TEC depletion is linearly dependent on the Sun’s obscuration function. By modelling TEC depletion and knowing the Sun’s obscuration function in advance, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) operators may improve the broadcast ionospheric correction during a solar eclipse day.
Key words: Ionosphere (general) / Total electron content / Remote sensing / Space weather / Ionization
© M.M. Hoque et al., Published by EDP Sciences 2016
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