SuperDARN radar-derived HF radio attenuation during the September 2017 solar proton events
Two solar proton events in September 2017 had a significant impact on the operation of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), a global network of high‐frequency (HF) radars designed for observing F region ionospheric plasma convection. Strong polar cap absorption caused near‐total loss of radar backscatter, which prevented the primary SuperDARN data products from being determined for a period of several days. During this interval, the high‐latitude and polar cap radars measured unusually low levels of background atmospheric radio noise. We demonstrate that these background noise measurements can be used to observe the spatial and temporal evolution of the polar cap absorption region, using an approach similar to riometry. We find that the temporal evolution of the SuperDARN radar‐derived HF attenuation closely follows that of the cosmic noise absorption measured by a riometer. Attenuation of the atmospheric noise up to 10 dB at 12 MHz is measured within the northern polar cap, and up to 14 dB in the southern polar cap, which is consistent with the observed backscatter loss. Additionally, periods of enhanced attenuation lasting 2–4 hr are detected by the midlatitude radars in response to M‐ and X‐class solar flares. Our results demonstrate that SuperDARN's routine measurements of atmospheric radio noise can be used to monitor 8‐ to 20‐MHz radio attenuation from middle to polar latitudes, which may be used to supplement riometer data and also to investigate the causes of SuperDARN backscatter loss during space weather events.Plain Language Summary: Solar proton events are known to cause widespread disruption to high‐frequency (HF) radio communications in the high‐latitude and polar regions. We demonstrate that SuperDARN HF radars may be used to monitor HF radio wave attenuation during solar proton events using routine measurements of the background radio noise. These background noise measurements are produced as part of the radar data processing, but they are not normally used for science applications. We focus on two solar proton events, which occurred in September 2017, and find that the measured radio attenuation is confined to the polar cap and exhibits temporal and spatial properties that are characteristic of polar cap absorption events. The attenuation measured by the Rankin Inlet SuperDARN radar agrees well with measurements from a nearby riometer, indicating that reasonable estimates of the HF radio attenuation can be obtained from SuperDARN radars despite the high day‐to‐day variability of the atmospheric radio noise. Our technique may also prove useful for determining the reasons for backscatter loss, particularly when riometer data are not available.
Source at https://doi.org/10.1029/2018SW001916.