Ionization dynamics under the influence of geomagnetic storms

  • Ping Yin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The Earth ionosphere becomes highly variable during extreme space-weather events. Observations from the Global Positioning System (GPS) in conjunction with tomographic imaging have the potential to characterise its disturbed behaviour. In this project, a four-dimensional tomographic technique is employed to reveal the temporal evolution and spatial distribution of ionisation in the ionosphere on a large scale (over Europe and the USA). The effects of geomagnetic storms on the dynamics of the plasma are investigated throughout the recent solar maximum, when the intensity of geomagnetic storms is greatest.

The results presented in this thesis show, for the first time, a wide area view of the ionosphere during storm-time. Electron-density images of the disturbed mid/high latitude ionosphere and Total Electron Content (TEC) maps are produced over North America and Europe for several severe storms. Using both ground-based and Low Earth Orbit satellite-based GPS data as well as available ionosonde data during storm periods, improvements in imaging of ionospheric structures at storm time are made.

A case-study for the 29th–30th October 2003 storm shows the detailed evolution of ionisation in space and in time throughout the entire period of a complex storm. The peak heights of the disturbed F region were redistributed (uplifted) both over Europe and the USA around dusk for several major storm events. This uplift propagated westwards. Investigations into common features of storms indicated that positive or negative storm effects correlated with local time. In addition, the strongest enhancement in TEC and the highest uplift were in the USA sector.

The project achievements are twofold. Firstly, abnormal behaviour of the disturbed ionosphere,such as enhancements in electron density and TEC and sudden uplifts of the peak height, is shown using a new GPS imaging technique. Secondly, the results will provide important experimental inputs into physical models of ionospheric storms and also contribute to the further understanding the dynamics of ionisation and underlying mechanisms of severe storms on a global scale.

Date of Award24 Jan 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorCathryn Mitchell (Supervisor)

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