Artificial plasma cusp generated by upper hybrid instabilities in HF heating experiments at HAARP

Spencer Kuo, Arnold Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program digisonde was operated in a fast mode to record ionospheric modifications by the HF heating wave. With the O mode heater of 3.2 MHz turned on for 2 min, significant virtual height spread was observed in the heater off ionograms, acquired beginning the moment the heater turned off. Moreover, there is a noticeable bump in the virtual height spread of the ionogram trace that appears next to the plasma frequency (~ 2.88 MHz) of the upper hybrid resonance layer of the HF heating wave. The enhanced spread and the bump disappear in the subsequent heater off ionograms recorded 1 min later. The height distribution of the ionosphere in the spread situation indicates that both electron density and temperature increases exceed 10% over a large altitude region (> 30 km) from below to above the upper hybrid resonance layer. This "mini cusp" (bump) is similar to the cusp occurring in daytime ionograms at the F1-F2 layer transition, indicating that there is a small ledge in the density profile reminiscent of F1-F2 layer transitions. Two parametric processes exciting upper hybrid waves as the sidebands by the HF heating waves are studied. Field-aligned purely growing mode and lower hybrid wave are the respective decay modes. The excited upper hybrid and lower hybrid waves introduce the anomalous electron heating which results in the ionization enhancement and localized density ledge. The large-scale density irregularities formed in the heat flow, together with the density irregularities formed through the parametric instability, give rise to the enhanced virtual height spread. The results of upper hybrid instability analysis are also applied to explain the descending feature in the development of the artificial ionization layers observed in electron cyclotron harmonic resonance heating experiments. Key Points Artificial plasma cusp at upper hybrid resonance shown in HF heating experimentParametric excitation of upper hybrid instabilities by O mode HF heaterShifting dominant parametric instability process from Langmuir to upper hybrid

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2734-2743
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Ionospheric Modification
  • ionosonde
  • parametric instability
  • plasma cusp
  • upper hybrid instability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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