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ISSN  2096-3955

CN  10-1502/P

Citation: Liu, Y., Zhou, C., Xu, T., Tang, Q., Deng, Z. X., Chen, G. Y., and Wang, Z. K. (2021). Review of ionospheric irregularities and ionospheric electrodynamic coupling in the middle latitude region. Earth Planet. Phys., 5(5), 462–482.

2021, 5(5): 462-482. doi: 10.26464/epp2021025


Review of ionospheric irregularities and ionospheric electrodynamic coupling in the middle latitude region


Department of Space Physics, School of Electronic Information, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China


National Key Laboratory of Electromagnetic Environment, China Research Institute of Radiowave Propagation, Qingdao 266107, China

Corresponding author: Chen Zhou,

Received Date: 2021-01-31
Web Publishing Date: 2021-05-19

This paper briefly reviews ionospheric irregularities that occur in the E and F regions at mid-latitudes. Sporadic E (ES) is a common ionospheric irregularity phenomenon that is first noticed in the E layer. ES mainly appears during daytime in summer hemispheres, and is formed primarily from neutral wind shear in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region. Field-aligned irregularity (FAI) in the E region is also observed by Very High Frequency (VHF) radar in mid-latitude regions. FAI frequently occurs after sunset in summer hemispheres, and spectrum features of E region FAI echoes suggest that type-2 irregularity is dominant in the nighttime ionosphere. A close relationship between ES and E region FAI implies that ES may be a possible source of E region FAI in the nighttime ionosphere. Strong neutral wind shear, steep ES plasma density gradient, and a polarized electric field are the significant factors affecting the formation of E region FAI. At mid-latitudes, joint observational experiments including ionosonde, VHF radar, Global Positioning System (GPS) stations, and all-sky optical images have revealed strong connections across different scales of ionospheric irregularities in the nighttime F region, such as spread F (SF), medium-scale traveling ionospheric disturbances (MSTID), and F region FAI. Observations suggest that different scales of ionospheric irregularities are generally attributed to the Perkins instability and subsequently excited gradient drift instability. Nighttime MSTID can further evolve into small-scale structures through a nonlinear cascade process when a steep plasma density gradient exists at the bottom of the F region. In addition, the effect of ionospheric electrodynamic coupling processes, including ionospheric E-F coupling and inter-hemispheric coupling on the generation of ionospheric irregularities, becomes more prominent due to the significant dip angle and equipotentiality of magnetic field lines in the mid-latitude ionosphere. Polarized electric fields can map to different ionospheric regions and excite plasma instabilities which form ionospheric irregularities. Nevertheless, the mapping efficiency of a polarized electric field depends on the ionospheric background and spatial scale of the field.

Key words: ionospheric irregularity, plasma instability, neutral wind, polarized electric field, ionospheric electrodynamic coupling

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Review of ionospheric irregularities and ionospheric electrodynamic coupling in the middle latitude region

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