Solar activity variability in the IRI at high latitudes: Comparisons with GPS total electron content

David R. Themens*, P. T. Jayachandran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Total electron content (TEC) measurements from 10 dual-frequency GPS receivers in the Canadian High Arctic Ionospheric Network (CHAIN) are used to evaluate the performance of International Reference Ionosphere (IRI)-2007 within the Canadian sector. Throughout the region, we see systematic underestimation of daytime TEC, particularly at solar maximum, where summer and equinox root-mean-square errors reach as high as 14 total electron content units, 1 TECU = 1016 el m-2 (TECU). It is also shown that the use of a monthly IG index, in place of the IRI's standard IG12 index, leads to an improvement in TEC specification by up to 3 TECU in the polar cap and up to 6 TECU in the subauroral region during periods of short-term, large amplitude changes in solar activity. On diurnal timescales, variability in TEC is found to be underestimated by the IRI, during equinox periods, by up to 40% at subauroral latitudes and up to 70% in the polar cap region. During the winter, diurnal variations are overestimated by up to 40% in the subauroral region and are underestimated within the polar cap by up to 80%. Using collocated ionosonde data, we find IRI bottomside TEC to be within 1 TECU of observation with errors largest during the equinoxes. For the topside we find good agreement during the winter but significant underestimation of topside TEC by the IRI during summer and equinox periods, exceeding 6 TECU at times. By ingesting measured NmF2 into the IRI, we show that the topside thickness parameterization is the source of the bulk of the observed TEC errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3793-3807
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research A: Space Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • auroral oval
  • GPS
  • International Reference Ionosphere
  • ionosphere
  • polar cap
  • total electron content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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