The character of drift spreading of artificial plasma clouds in the middle-latitude ionosphere

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Nonlinear equations describing the evolution of plasma clouds with real initial sizes, along and across the geomagnetic field B, which drift in the ionosphere in the presence of an ambient electric field and a neutral wind have been solved and analysed. An ionospheric model close to the real conditions of the middle-latitude ionosphere is introduced, taking into account the altitude dependence of the transport coefficients and background ionospheric plasma. The striation of the initial plasma cloud into a cluster of plasmoids, stretched along the field B, is obtained. The process of dispersive splitting of the initial plasma cloud can be understood in terms of gradient drift instability (GDI) as a most probable striation mechanism. The dependence of the characteristic time of dispersive splitting on the value of the ambient electric field, the initial plasma disturbance in the cloud and its initial sizes was investigated. The stretching criterion, necessary for the plasma cloud's striation is obtained. The possibility of the drift stabilization effect arising from azimuthal drift velocity shear, obtained by Drake et al. [1988], is examined for various parameters of the barium cloud and the background ionospheric conditions. A comparison with experimental data on the evolution of barium clouds in rocket experiments at the height of the lower ionosphere is made.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2321-2332
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberA2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 1996


  • Ionosphere: Ionospheric disturbances
  • Ionosphere: Active experiments
  • Ionosphere: Ionospheric irregularities
  • Ionosphere: Plasma waves and instabilities


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