Solar cycle dependent characteristics of the equatorial blanketing E s layers and associated irregularities
The occurrence of blanketing type E s (E sb) layers and associated E-region irregularities over the magnetic equatorial location of Trivandrum (8.5° N; 77° E; dip ~0.5°) during the summer solstitial months of May, June, July and August has been investigated in detail for the period 1986–2000 to bring out the variabilities in their characteristics with the solar cycle changes. The study has been made using the ionosonde and magnetometer data of Trivandrum from 1986–2000 along with the available data from the 54.95 MHz VHF backscatter radar at Trivandrum for the period 1995–2000. The appearance of blanketing E s layers during these months is observed to be mostly in association with the occurrence of afternoon Counter Electrojet (CEJ) events. The physical process leading to the occurrence of a CEJ event is mainly controlled by the nature of the prevailing electro dynamical/neutral dynamical conditions before the event. Hence it is natural that the E sb layer characteristics like the frequency of occurrence, onset time, intensity, nature of gradients in its top and bottom sides etc are also affected by the nature of the background electro dynamical /neutral dynamical processes which in turn are strongly controlled by the solar activity changes. The occurrence of E sb layers during the solstitial months is found to show very strong solar activity dependence with the occurrence frequency being very large during the solar minimum years and very low during solar maximum years. The intensity of the VHF radar backscattered signals from the E sb irregularities is observed to be controlled by the relative roles of the direction and magnitude of the prevailing vertical polarization electric field and the vertical electron density gradient of the prevailing E sb layer depending on the phase of the solar cycle. The gradient of the E sb layer shows a more dominant role in the generation of gradient instabilities during solar minimum periods while it is the electric field that has a more dominant role during solar maximum periods.