Waynick Distinguished Lecture: Applying modern methods to an old problem: predicting space weather near the magnetic equator

Abstract: One of the earliest demonstrations of radar was ionospheric sounding under the magnetic equator, and one of the first systematic observations of space weather was anomalous behavior in those sounding experiments. For more than 40 years, it has been known that the phenomenon is associated with plasma convective instability in the equatorial F-region ionosphere. Convective instability produces a spectrum of ionospheric density irregularities which pose a hazard to radio communication, navigation, and imaging systems at low latitudes, qualifying as space weather. This form of space weather does not originate at the sun, however, and forecasting it has proven to be a difficult problem. This talk presents a new approach to the problem that employs contemporary methods in radio and space research. These include new radar methods developed at the Jicamarca Radio Observatory just outside Lima, Peru. The methods give a better specification of the ionosphere before and after instability onset than has been available previously. New methods also include direct numerical simulations of the equatorial ionosphere that can be initialized and driven with data from Jicamarca. The most novel method stems from the recent deployment of a network of HF beacon transceivers. While such beacons hearken back to the earliest days of radio, the new method for inverting the beacon data provides perhaps the most incisive data available for regional space-weather forecasting.

Biography: David Hysell earned his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1992. Hysell investigates ionospheric plasma physics with a focus on plasma instabilities, ionospheric irregularities, and their effects on radio wave propagation. Communication outages caused byionospheric irregularities are a central component of the National Space Weather Program. The instabilities of interest are found in the equatorial and auroral electrojets, in the midlatitude E region ionosphere, and in equatorial and midlatitude spread F. The research is both experimental and theoretical and has a substantial computational component. An important research tool for studying the equatorial ionosphere is the Jicamarca Radio Observatory near Lima, Peru, the world's largest radar. In the spring of 2005, Hysell became the PI for the NSF Cooperative Agreement that supports Jicamarca.


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