For space geodetic techniques, operating in microwave band, ionosphere is a dispersive medium; thus signals traveling through this medium are in the first approximation affected proportional to inverse of the square of their frequencies. This effect allows gaining information about the parameters of the ionosphere in terms of Total Electron Content (TEC) or the electron density (Ne). TEC or electron density can then be expressed by means of spherical harmonic base functions to provide a Global Ionosphere Map (GIM). The classical input data for development of GIMs are obtained from dual-frequency observations carried out at Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) stations. However, GNSS stations are in-homogeneously distributed around the world, with large gaps particularly over the oceans; this fact reduces the precision of the GIM over these areas. On the other hand, dual-frequency satellite altimetry missions such as Jason-1 provide information about the ionosphere precisely above the oceans; and furthermore Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites, such as Formosat-3/COSMIC (F/C) provide well-distributed information of ionosphere globally. This study investigates on global modeling of TEC through combining GNSS and satellite altimetry data with global TEC data derived from the occultation measurements of the F/C mission. The combined GIMs of vertical TEC (VTEC) show a maximum difference of 1.3–1.7 TEC units (TECU) with respect to the GNSS-only GIMs in the whole day. The root mean square error (RMS) maps of combined solution show a reduction of about 0.1 TECU in the whole day. This decrease of RMS can reach up to 0.5 TECU in areas where no or few GNSS observations are available, but high number of F/C measurement is carried out. This proves that the combined GIMs provide a more homogeneous global coverage and higher reliability than results of each single method. All comparisons and validations made within this study provide vital information regarding combination and integration of various observation techniques in the Global Geodetic Observing System of the International Association of Geodesy.
Global Ionosphere Maps Total Electron Content Global Navigation Satellite System Satellite altimetry Formosat-3/COSMIC