Collaborative Research: SuperDARN Space Weather Radar - Operations, Research, and Community Support

Project: Research project

Project Details


The coupling of the solar wind with Earth's magnetic field gives rise to a range of disturbance effects in Earth's near-space environment. Some of the most dramatic and technologically harmful aspects of this space weather occur in the ionosphere from mid-latitudes to the polar cap. The HF radar technique as implemented in the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) has demonstrated its value for making always-on, global-scale observations of ionospheric space weather and for advancing our understanding of the underlying geophysical processes. The participants in the international SuperDARN collaboration jointly operate networks in both the northern and southern hemispheres that now total 35 radars. Over the past five years the scope of SuperDARN has greatly increased with the NSF-sponsored construction of a mid-latitude chain of radars that spans the United States. The collaboration on this award counts Virginia Tech as the lead-PI institution and Dartmouth College, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as collaborating PI institutions. Significant benefits are expected from combining efforts and sharing expertise within this consortium that brings together, for the first time, all the NSF-funded SuperDARN groups within one organizational structure. The award will ensure the continued operation of the 11 radars in North America that this group collectively is responsible for. The US SuperDARN group also provides leadership of the international SuperDARN collaboration. The radar measurements of the rapidly expanding SuperDARN network constitute a unique dataset that will support many important science investigations within a wide range of Geospace research areas. In addition, the project will support the education and training of students and postdocs at all of the participating institutions as well as many others in a broad variety of scientific, engineering, and team-building aspects of space science.

SuperDARN utilizes coherent backscatter techniques to track the ExB drift of ionospheric plasma, and in its standard mode of operation, each radar measures the line-of-sight plasma velocity at 75 ranges along each of 16 beam directions covering an area of about 3500 km in range and about 56 degrees in azimuth. The radars operate continuously, 24 hours per day and 7 days per week and deliver images of the high-latitude convection pattern with a two-minute time resolution. The network of SuperDARN radars constitutes a unique global-scale instrument to observe and understand the system-level effects of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling and to study space weather in the ionosphere. By providing direct measurements of convection velocities over large regions, SuperDARN provides the best means available to determine ionospheric convection patterns. Through this award operations of the system will be secured for the next five years, including both routine maintenance as well as some necessary technical upgrades. The measurements will be provided together with advanced and improved analysis tools to enable and facilitate research by the broader community to make major advances on a broad range of science questions at the forefront of ionospheric research. Planned topics of investigations include: magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, improved models of storm-time ionospheric plasma convection, ionosphere-thermosphere interactions, magnetic conjugacy studies, and ionospheric plasma instabilities and irregularities.

Effective start/end date2/1/151/31/22


  • National Science Foundation: $1,366,551.00


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