Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Physics


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Clark M. Groves, PhD


The structure and time development of the magnetosphere-ionosphere system have significant impacts on the Air Force and its mission. Specifically, an accurate knowledge of ionospheric plasma densities is important for the operation of many Air Force systems. This research analyzes plasma density structure development through comparing two distinct electric field models. The two models compared here are a commonly used statistical model created by Heppner and Maynard 1987, and a more recently developed model using real-time coherent radar measurements from the SuperDARN radar network. Ionospheric simulations were run using Utah State University s Time-Dependent Ionospheric Model (TDIM) with the two electric field models as drivers, and density results from the simulations were compared with both a conceptual model and in-situ DMSP satellite measurements. While there are limitations to the comparison technique, results indicate that, in general, using the SuperDARN-derived electric fields to drive the TDIM has advantages over using the statistical fields. The higher spatial and temporal resolution of the input electric fields generally seem to produce more realistic morphological density structures, with smoothing due to statistical averaging and geomagnetic index-binning reduced. This research provides an essential first step in using high resolution, real-time SuperDARN-derived electric fields to drive a physical model of the ionosphere in order to create realistic ionospheric density results.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number