Behaviour of large scale structures of the electron content as a key parameterfor range errors in GNSS applications

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N. Jakowski
R. Leitinger
L. Ciraolo


The Total Electron Content (TEC) of the ionosphere is a key parameter for describing the ionospheric state. This paper deals with the large scale behaviour of TEC under low and high solar activity conditions. Large scale structures of the plasma density are formed by fundamental ionospheric processes mainly driven by solar radiation input, neutral winds and electric fields. The monitoring of large scale structures contributes to a comprehensive understanding of these coupling mechanisms which are rather complex
particularly under perturbed geomagnetic conditions. The paper addresses techniques to monitor TEC with sufficient accuracy of a few TEC units (1016m-2) to measure large scale structures over Europe and over the polar areas. The availability of GPS data from global GPS receiver networks as e.g., those from the International GPS Service (IGS) is dense enough to generate TEC maps on a continuous base. A model assisted technique is briefly described for mapping TEC over the European and polar areas. A statistical estimation of horizontal TEC gradients reveals large scale gradients of up to about 6 TECU/1000 km under high solar activity conditions at an occurrence probability level of about 1%. Occasionally, during severe ionospheric storms this value may increase by a factor of 10 or even more. A close correlation of
large scale gradients and the geomagnetic activity has been found giving the chance to forecast TEC gradient amplitudes by using predicted geomagnetic indices. Since TEC is proportional to first-order range
errors in Global Satellite Navigation Systems (GNSS) such as the US GPS and the Russian GLONASS the study of the behaviour of this parameter has a practical meaning in GNSS based navigation and positioning.
The paper addresses the close relationship between TEC and ranging errors in GNSS. Having in view Galileo, the planned Europe?s own global satellite navigation system, some aspects related to the
mitigation of ionospheric propagation errors within the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) are discussed. Since EGNOS will augment the two above mentioned satellite navigation
systems and make them suitable for safety critical applications such as flying aircraft or navigating ships through narrow channels the ionospheric propagation errors have to be mitigated as much as possible.

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How to Cite
Jakowski, N., Leitinger, R. and Ciraolo, L. (2004) “Behaviour of large scale structures of the electron content as a key parameterfor range errors in GNSS applications”, Annals of Geophysics, 47(2-3 Sup.). doi: 10.4401/ag-3284.

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