The F-region trough: seasonal morphology and relation to interplanetary magnetic field
We present here the results of a statistical study of the ionospheric trough observed in 2003 by means of satellite tomography. We focus on the seasonal morphology of the trough occurrence and investigate the trough latitude, width and the horizontal gradients at the edges, at different magnetic local times, as well as their relations to geomagnetic activity and the interplanetary magnetic field. A seasonal effect is noticed in the diurnal variation of the trough latitude, indicating that summer clearly differs from the other seasons. In winter the troughs seem to follow the solar terminator. The width of the trough has a diurnal variation and it depends on the season, as well. The broadest troughs are observed in winter and the narrowest ones in summer. A discontinuity in the diurnal variation of the trough latitude is observed before noon. It is suggested that this is an indication of a difference between the generation mechanisms of morningside and eveningside troughs. The density gradients at the edges have a complex dependence on the latitude of the trough and on geomagnetic activity. The photoionization and the auroral precipitation are competing in the formation of the trough walls at different magnetic local times. An important finding is that the interplanetary magnetic field plays a role in the occurrence of the trough at different levels of geomagnetic activity. This is probably associated with the topology of the polar cap convection pattern, which depends on the directions of the IMF components By and Bz.