2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Oblique sounding of ionized patches in the Antarctic ionosphere - instrument development and testing

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A-100-M/S Research Location(s): T-Site / Dark Sector


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1643773

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Elizabeth Kauffman / Timothy Ager / Neal Scheibe

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Alex T Chartier
Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory
Baltimore, Maryland


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station, South Pole Station
Research Locations: T-Site / Dark Sector


Ionospheric regions/structures associated with ionized patches are known to disrupt radio signals at high latitudes, which can impact search-and-rescue operations and other radio communications. Recent statistical studies showed a strong annual trend for ionized patches at ~300-km altitude, which appears to peak in the same months in the Arctic and Antarctic. This contrasts with established theories that predict seasonal trends, with patch occurrence peaks during each hemisphere’s winter. Researchers on this project hope to confirm the Antarctic patch occurrence rates using independent sounding observations, along with observations of the ionospheric electric field behavior from existing ionospheric radars.

Field Season Overview

The ionosonde's transmitter will be installed on Observation Hill at McMurdo Station and will send radio pulses toward South Pole, where the receiver will collect data from this oblique sounding of ionized patches, following their formation, propagation, and dynamics. The 12-month-long period of testing this instrument in Antarctica will also allow scientists to collect enough experimental data to potentially deploy an array of transmitters at remote Antarctic locations, while the oblique sounding signals will be received and processed at the ionosonde's hub receiver at South Pole.

Deploying Team Members

  • Alex Chartier (PI)