Drivers of the variability of ionospheric plasma observed by the Swarm satellites

  • Wood, A. (Presenter)
  • Elizabeth Donegan-Lawley (Advisor)
  • Dorrian, G. (Advisor)
  • James Rawlings (Advisor)
  • Golnaz Shahtahmassebi (Advisor)
  • Jaroslav Urbář (Advisor)
  • Lasse Clausen (Advisor)
  • Antonio Cicone (Advisor)
  • Yaqi Jin (Advisor)
  • Wojciech J. Miloch (Advisor)
  • Lucilla Alfonsi (Advisor)
  • Luca Spogli (Advisor)
  • Claudio Cesaroni (Advisor)
  • Per Høeg (Advisor)

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsConference, workshop or symposium


The ionosphere is a highly complex plasma containing electron density structures with a wide range of spatial scale sizes. Large-scale structures with horizontal extents of tens to hundreds of km exhibit variation with time of day, season, solar cycle, geomagnetic activity, solar wind conditions, and location. Whilst the processes driving these structures are well understood, the relative importance of these driving processes is a fundamental, unanswered question. These large-scale structures can also cause smaller-scale irregularities that arise due to instability processes and which can disrupt trans-ionospheric radio signals, including those used by Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).
Swarm is ESA's first constellation mission for Earth Observation (EO). It initially consisted of three identical satellites (Swarm A, Swarm B, and Swarm C), which were launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2013. The configuration of the Swarm satellites, their near-polar orbits and the data products developed, enable studies of the spatial variability of the ionosphere at multiple scale sizes. A machine learning technique is used to identify the dominant driving processes of large-scale structures in the ionosphere at low, middle, auroral and polar latitudes, and to create statistical models of ionospheric variability in these regions. As well as observing the ionospheric plasma, the Swarm mission can infer the thermospheric density and the magnitude of the field aligned currents. These can therefore be included as explanatory variables in statistical models. The effect of including these upon the model performance is evaluated.
This work is within the framework of the Swarm Variability of Ionospheric Plasma (Swarm-VIP) project, funded by ESA in the “Swarm+4D-Ionosphere” framework (ESA Contract No. 4000130562/20/I-DT).
PeriodApr 2023
Event titleMagnetosphere Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (MIST) meeting
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational