3D Ionospheric Effects on HF Propagation and Heating

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The thesis uses a three-dimensional, first-principles model of the ionosphere in combination with High Frequency (HF) raytracing model to address key topics related to the physics of HF propagation and artificial ionospheric heating. In particular:

  1. Explores the effect of the ubiquitous electron density gradients caused by Medium Scale Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances (MSTIDs) on high-angle of incidence HF radio wave propagation. Previous studies neglected the all-important presence of horizontal gradients in both the cross- and down-range directions, which refract the HF waves, significantly changing their path through the ionosphere. The physics-based ionosphere model SAMI3/ESF is used to generate a self-consistently evolving MSTID that allows for the examination of the spatio-temporal progression of the HF radio waves in the ionosphere.

  2. Tests the potential and determines engineering requirements for ground- based high power HF heaters to trigger and control the evolution of Equatorial Spread F (ESF). Interference from ESF on radio wave propagation through the

ionosphere remains a critical issue on HF systems reliability. Artificial HF heating has been shown to create plasma density cavities in the ionosphere similar to those that may trigger ESF bubbles. The work explores whether HF heating may trigger or control ESF bubbles.

  1. Uses the combined ionosphere and HF raytracing models to create the first self-consistent HF Heating model. This model is utilized to simulate results from an Arecibo experiment and to provide understanding of the physical mechanism behind observed phenomena. The insights gained provide engineering guidance for new artificial heaters that are being built for use in low to middle latitude regions.

In accomplishing the above topics: (i) I generated a model MSTID using the SAMI3/ESF code, and used a raytrace model to examine the effects of the MSTID gradients on radio wave propagation observables; (ii) I implemented a three- dimensional HF heating model in SAMI3/ESF and used the model to determine whether HF heating could artificially generate an ESF bubble; (iii) I created the first self-consistent model for artificial HF heating using the SAMI3/ESF ionosphere model and the MoJo raytrace model and ran a series of simulations that successfully modeled the results of early artificial heating experiments at Arecibo.