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Long-term changes in solar irradiance and upper atmospheric composition observed in the ionosphere

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Long-term changes observed in the Earth’s ionosphere (the electrified portion of the upper atmosphere) are the result of changes to solar irradiance, thermospheric composition and tropospheric forcing. In this project we will use extensive archives of historical ionospheric data to unpick the relative contributions from these three influences. The annual variability of the ionosphere depends on the relative magnitudes of thermospheric composition changes and seasonal changes to the solar irradiance. Where the former dominates, ionospheric densities show an annual variation; where the latter dominates, ionospheric densities show a semi-diurnal pattern. Changes to these behaviours at a given station reveal changes in the balance between these two forcings.

The motivation for this work spans three areas;
1. Any regional differences in ionospheric behaviour will reveal local compositional changes indicating changes in global circulation patterns in the upper atmosphere.
2. Those stations that are dominated by semi-annual variability respond more closely to changes in the irradiance from faculae in the solar atmosphere. By studying this relationship we will investigate changes to the solar irradiance in the EUV and X-ray region of the solar irradiance spectrum.
3. Theoretical and modelling work has suggested that the upper atmosphere is expected to cool and contract in altitude in response to increased concentrations of tropospheric CO2. When long-term ionospheric data sets are used to investigate this the result are inconclusive, with some stations showing a decrease in ionospheric altitude while others show little response or indeed an increase in altitude over time. Work by the supervisor has shown that there are long-term changes in the behaviour of the ionosphere that can be explained by changes to the chemical composition of the upper atmosphere. Furthermore, these differing responses closely map the regions responding differently to an increase in tropospheric CO2. By understanding regional changes to thermospheric composition, we will deconvolve this response to better constrain the estimates of ionospheric descent due to greenhouse warming in the troposphere.

The project will be co-supervised by Prof Mike Lockwood.

The full project description is available at http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/pg-research/scott_2016.pdf

Funding Notes

Project available for students with their own funding. To apply for this PhD project please visit View Website

The student is expected to have a strong background in quantitative science (e.g., a Maths, Physics or Engineering-related undergraduate
degree). Previous knowledge of space weather or upper atmospheric physics is not required.Previous experience with computer programming is desirable but not essential.

How good is research at University of Reading in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 75.68

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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