Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 84, Issue 5, pp 293–304 | Cite as

GPS slant total electron content accuracy using the single layer model under different geomagnetic regions and ionospheric conditions

  • C. Brunini
  • F. Azpilicueta
Original Article


The use of observations from the Global Positioning System (GPS) has significantly impacted the study of the ionosphere. As it is widely known, dual-frequency GPS observations can provide very precise estimation of the slant Total Electron Content (sTEC—the linear integral of the electron density along a ray-path) and that the precision level is bounded by the carrier-phase noise and multi-path effects on both frequencies. Despite its precision, GPS sTEC estimations can be systematically affected by errors in the estimation of the satellites and receivers by Inter-Frequency Biases (IFB) that are simultaneously determined with the sTEC. Thus, the ultimate accuracy of the GPS sTEC estimation is determined by the errors with which the IFBs are estimated. This contribution attempts to assess the accuracy of IFBs estimation techniques based on the single layer model for different ionospheric regions (low, mid and high magnetic latitude); different seasons (summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes); different solar activity levels (high and low); and different geomagnetic conditions (quiet and very disturbed). The followed strategy relies upon the generation of a synthetic data set free of IFB, multi-path, measurement noise and of any other error source. Therefore, when a data set with such properties is used as the input of the IFB estimation algorithms, any deviation from zero on the estimated IFBs should be taken as indications of the errors introduced by the estimation technique. The truthfulness of this assessment work is warranted by the fact that the synthetic data sets resemble, as realistically as possible, the different conditions that may happen in the real ionosphere. The results of this work show that during the high solar activity period the accuracy for the estimated sTEC is approximately of ±10 TECu for the low geomagnetic region and of ±2.2 TECu for the mid-latitude. During low solar activity the accuracy can be assumed to be in the order of ±2 TECu. For the geomagnetic high-disturbed period, the results show that the accuracy is degraded for those stations located over the region where the storm has the strongest impact, but for those stations over regions where the storm has a moderate effect, the accuracy is comparable to that obtained in the quiet period.


GPS Slant total electron content (sTEC) Inter-frequency biases (IFB) sTEC calibration 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Ciencias Astronómicas y GeofísicasUniversidad Nacional de La PlataLa PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas(CONICET)La PlataArgentina

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