J. Space Weather Space Clim.
Volume 11, 2021
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Published online||02 February 2021|
Global equivalent slab thickness model of the Earth’s ionosphere
Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics, German Aerospace Center, Kalkhorstweg 53, 17235 Neustrelitz, Germany
* Corresponding author: Norbert.Jakowski@dlr.de
Accepted: 30 December 2020
The shape of the vertical electron density profile is a result of production, loss and transportation of plasma in the Earth’s ionosphere. Therefore, the equivalent slab thickness of the ionosphere that characterizes the width of vertical electron density profiles is an important parameter for a better understanding of ionospheric processes under regular as well as under perturbed conditions. The equivalent slab thickness is defined by the ratio of the vertical total electron content over the peak electron density and is therefore easy to compute by utilizing powerful data sources nowadays available thanks to ground and space based GNSS techniques. Here we use peak electron density data from three low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite missions, namely CHAMP, GRACE and FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC, as well as total electron content data obtained from numerous GNSS ground stations. For the first time, we present a global model of the equivalent slab thickness (Neustrelitz equivalent Slab Thickness Model – NSTM). The model approach is similar to a family of former model approaches successfully applied for total electron content (TEC), peak electron density NmF2 and corresponding height hmF2 at DLR. The model description focuses on an overall view of the behaviour of the equivalent slab thickness as a function of local time, season, geographic/geomagnetic location and solar activity on a global scale. In conclusion, the model agrees quite well with the overall observation data within a RMS range of 70 km. There is generally a good correlation with solar heat input that varies with local time, season and level of solar activity. However, under non-equilibrium conditions, plasma transport processes dominate the behaviour of the equivalent slab thickness. It is assumed that night-time plasmasphere–ionosphere coupling causes enhanced equivalent slab thickness values like the pre-sunrise enhancement. The overall fit provides consistent results with the mid-latitude bulge (MLB) of the equivalent slab thickness, described for the first time in this paper. Furthermore, the model recreates quite well ionospheric anomalies such as the Night-time Winter Anomaly (NWA) which is closely related to the Mid-latitude Summer Night-time Anomaly (MSNA) like the Weddell Sea Anomaly (WSA) and Okhotsk Sea Anomaly (OSA). Further model improvements can be achieved by using an extended model approach and considering the particular geomagnetic field structure.
Key words: ionosphere / equivalent slab thickness / modelling / GNSS radio occultation / ionospheric anomalies
© N. Jakowski & M.M. Hoque, Published by EDP Sciences 2021
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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