Strong E region ionization caused by the 1767 trail during the 2002 Leonids

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Pellinen-Wannberg, AK ; Haggstrom, I ; Sanchez, JDC ; Plane, JMC ; Westman, A (2014)
  • Publisher: American Geophysical Union

Intensive E region ionization extending up to 140 km altitude and lasting for several hours was observed with the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) UHF radar during the 2002 Leonids meteor shower maximum. The level of global geomagnetic disturbance as well as the local geomagnetic and auroral activity in northern Scandinavia were low during the event. Thus, the ionization cannot be explained by intensive precipitation. The layer was 30–40 km thick, so it cannot be classified as a sporadic E layer which are typically just a few kilometers wide. Incoherent scatter radars have not to date reported any notable meteor shower-related increases in the average background ionization. The 2002 Leonids storm flux, however, was so high that it might have been able to induce such an event. The Chemical Ablation Model is used to estimate deposition rates of individual meteors. The resulting electron production, arising from hyperthermal collisions of ablated atoms with atmospheric molecules, is related to the predicted Leonid flux values and observed ionization on 19 November 2002. The EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) located at some 1000 km north of the UHF site did not observe any excess ionization during the same period. The high-latitude electrodynamic conditions recorded by the SuperDARN radar network show that the ESR was within a strongly drifting convection cell continuously fed by fresh plasma while the UHF radar was outside the polar convection region maintaining the ionization.
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