Stability of solar correction for calculating ionospheric trends
Global climate change affects the whole atmosphere, including the thermosphere and ionosphere. Calculations of long-term trends in the ionosphere are critically dependent on solar activity (solar cycle) correction of ionospheric input data. The standard technique is to establish an experimental model via calculating the dependence of ionospheric parameter on solar activity from the whole analysed data set, subtract these model data from observed data and analyse the trend of residuals. However, if the solar activity dependence changes with time, the solar correction calculated from the whole data set may result in miscalculating the ionospheric trends. To test this, data from two European ionospheric stations – Juliusruh and Slough/Chilton – which provide long-term reliable data, have been used for the period 1975–2014. The main result of this study is the finding that the solar activity correction used in calculating ionospheric long-term trends need not be stable, as was assumed in all previous investigations of ionospheric trends. During the previous solar cycle 23 and the current solar cycle 24, the solar activity correction appears to be different from that for the previous period and the Sun seems to behave in a different way than throughout the whole previous era of ionospheric measurements. In future ionospheric trend investigations the non-stability of solar activity correction has to be very seriously taken into account, because it can substantially affect calculated long-term trends of ionospheric parameters.