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International Journal of Geophysics
Volume 2011, Article ID 401858, 10 pages
Research Article

Occurrence of Equatorial Plasma Bubbles during Intense Magnetic Storms

Boston College, Institute for Scientific Research, 400 St Clement's Hall, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA

Received 8 February 2011; Accepted 29 April 2011

Academic Editor: Lucilla Alfonsi

Copyright © 2011 Chao-Song Huang. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


An important issue in low-latitude ionospheric space weather is how magnetic storms affect the generation of equatorial plasma bubbles. In this study, we present the measurements of the ion density and velocity in the evening equatorial ionosphere by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites during 22 intense magnetic storms. The DMSP measurements show that deep ion density depletions (plasma bubbles) are generated after the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) turns southward. The time delay between the IMF southward turning and the first DMSP detection of plasma depletions decreases with the minimum value of the IMF Bz, the maximum value of the interplanetary electric field (IEF) Ey, and the magnitude of the Dst index. The results of this study provide strong evidence that penetration electric field associated with southward IMF during the main phase of magnetic storms increases the generation of equatorial plasma bubbles in the evening sector.