, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 281-287

GPS scintillation over the European Arctic during the November 2004 storms

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Small-scale irregularities in the background electron density of the ionosphere can cause rapid fluctuations in the amplitude and phase of radio signals passing through it. These rapid fluctuations are known as scintillation and can cause a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to lose lock on a signal. This could compromise the integrity of a safety of life system based on GPS, operating in auroral regions. In this paper, the relationship between the loss of lock on GPS signals and ionospheric scintillation in auroral regions is explored. The period from 8 to 14 November 2004 is selected for this study, as it includes both geomagnetically quiet and disturbed conditions. Phase and amplitude scintillation are measured by GPS receivers located at three sites in Northern Scandinavia, and correlated with losses of signal lock in receivers at varying distances from the scintillation receivers. Local multi-path effects are screened out by rejection of low-elevation data from the analysis. The results indicate that losses of lock are more closely related to rapid fluctuations in the phase rather than the amplitude of the received signal. This supports the idea, suggested by Humphreys et al. (2005) (performance of GPS carrier tracking loops during ionospheric scintillations. Proceedings Internationsl Ionospheric Effects Symposium 3–5 May 2005), that a wide loop bandwidth may be preferred for receivers operating at auroral latitudes. Evidence from the Imaging Riometer for Ionospheric Studies (IRIS) appears to suggest that, for this particular storm, precipitation of particles in the D/E regions may be the mechanism that drives the rapid phase fluctuations in the signal.