Multi-diagnostic Investigations of the Equatorial and Low-latitude Ionospheric Electrodynamics and Their Impacts on Space-based Technologies
The equatorial and low-latitude ionosphere of the Earth exhibits unique features on its structuring, coupling, and electrodynamics that offer the possibility to forecast the dynamics and fluctuations of ionospheric plasma densities at later times. The scientific understanding and forecasting of ionospheric plasma are necessary for several practical applications, such as for mitigating the adverse effects of space weather on communication, navigation, power grids, space mission, and for various scientific experiments and applications. The daytime equatorial electrojet (EEJ), equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA), as well as nighttime equatorial plasma bubble (EPB) and plasma blobs are the most prominent low-latitude ionospheric phenomena. This dissertation focuses on the multi-diagnostic study of the mechanism, properties, abnormalities, and interrelationships of these phenomena to provide significant contributions to space weather communities from the ground- and space-based measurements. A strong longitudinal, seasonal, day-to-day variability and dependency between EEJ, ExB vertical plasma drift, and total electron content (TEC) in the EIA distribution are seen in the equatorial and low-latitude region. In general, the EEJ strength is stronger in the west coast of South America than in its east coast. The variability of the EEJ in the dayside ionosphere significantly affects the ionospheric electron density variation, dynamics of the peak height of F2-layer, and TEC distributions as the EEJ influences the vertical transport mechanism of the ionospheric plasma. The eastward electric field (EEF) and the neutral wind play a decisive role in controlling the actual configuration of the EIA. The trans-equatorial neutral wind profile calculated using data from the Second-generation, Optimized, Fabry-Perot Doppler Imager (SOFDI) located near the geomagnetic equator and a physics-based numerical model, LLIONS (Low-Latitude IONospheric Sector) give new perspectives on the effects of daytime meridional neutral winds on the consequent evolution of the asymmetry of the equatorial TEC anomalies during the afternoon onwards. The spatial configurations including the strength, shape, amplitude and latitudinal extension of the EIA crests are affected by the EEF associated with the EEJ under undisturbed conditions, whereas the meridional neutral winds play a significant role in the development of their asymmetric structure in the low-latitude ionosphere. Additionally, the SWARM satellite constellation and the ground-based LISN (Low-Latitude Ionospheric Sensor Network) data allow us to resolve the space-time ambiguity of past single-satellite studies and detect the drastic changes that EPBs and plasma blobs undergo on a short time scale. The coordinated quantitative analysis of a plasma density observation shows evidence of the association of plasma blobs with EPBs via an appropriate geomagnetic flux tube. Plasma blobs were initially associated with the EPBs and remained at the equatorial latitude right above the EPBs height, but later were pushed away from geomagnetic equator towards EIA latitudes by the EPB/ depleted flux tubes that grew in volume. Further, there exists a strong correlation between the noontime equatorial electrojet and the GPS-derived TEC distributions during the afternoon time period, caused by vertical E × B drift via the fountain effect. Nevertheless, only a minor correlation likely exists between the peak EEJ and the net postsunset ionospheric scintillation index (S4) greater than 0.2. This study not only searches for a mutual relationship between the midday, afternoon and nighttime ionospheric phenomena but also aims at providing a possible route to improve our space weather forecasting capability by predicting nighttime ionospheric irregularities based on midday measurements at the equatorial and low latitudes.