New Paper: A LOFAR observation of ionospheric scintillation from two simultaneous travelling ionospheric disturbances

This paper presents the results from one of the first observations of ionospheric scintillation taken using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR).

The observation was of the strong natural radio source Cassiopeia A, taken overnight on 18 – 19 August 2013, and exhibited moderately strong scattering effects in dynamic spectra of intensity received across an observing bandwidth of 10 – 80 MHz. Delay-Doppler spectra (the 2D Fast Fourier Transform of the dynamic spectrum) from the first hour of observation showed two discrete parabolic arcs, one with a steep curvature and the other shallow, which can be used to provide estimates of the distance to, and velocity of, the scattering plasma. A cross-correlation analysis of data received by the dense array of stations in the LOFAR “core” reveals two different velocities in the scintillation pattern: a primary velocity of ~20 – 40 m/s with a north-west to south-east direction, associated with the steep parabolic arc and a scattering altitude in the F-region or higher, and a secondary velocity of ~110 m/s with a north-east to south-west direction, associated with the shallow arc and a scattering altitude in the ionospheric D-region.

Dynamic spectra of normalised intensity data taken by LOFAR station CS002 during the observation of Cas A on 18–19 August 2013. The dynamic spectrum of the entire observing period is given at the top, with zooms into three different hours of observation below to illustrate the range of conditions seen. White areas within the plots indicate where RFI was identified.

Geomagnetic activity was low in the mid-latitudes at the time, but a weak sub-storm at high latitudes reached its peak at the start of the observation. An analysis of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and ionosonde data from the time reveals a larger-scale travelling ionospheric disturbance (TID), possibly the result of the high-latitude activity, travelling in the north-west to south-east direction, and, simultaneously, a smaller-scale TID travelling in a north-east to south-west direction, which could be associated with atmospheric gravity wave activity. The LOFAR observation shows scattering from both TIDs, at different altitudes and propagating in different directions.

To the best of our knowledge this is the first time that such a phenomenon has been reported.

The paper is available online from the Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate: Fallows RA, Forte B, Astin I, Allbrook T, Arnold A, et al. 2020. A LOFAR observation of ionospheric scintillation from two simultaneous travelling ionospheric disturbances. J. Space Weather Space Clim10, 10.

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