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Ionospheric Dynamics by GNSS total electron content observations: the effect of Solar Eclipses and the mystery of Earthquake precursors


IPGP - Îlot Cuvier


Soutenances de thèses


Julian Eisenbeis

Planétologie et sciences spatiales (PSS)

This thesis focuses mainly on two topics: one is the ionospheric signature of solar eclipses, the second is the Hole vs Enhancement debate about earthquake precursors. On the 21st August 2017 the shadow of a total eclipse drastically changed the state of the ionosphere over the USA. This effect is visible in the total electron content (TEC) measured by ~3000 GNSS stations seeing multiple GPS and GLONASS satellites. This tremendous dataset allows high-resolution characterization of the frequency content and wavelengths -using an omega-k analysis based on 3D Fast-Fourier-Transform (FFT)- of the eclipse signature in the ionosphere in order to fully identify traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs). We confirm the generation of TIDs associated with the eclipse including TIDs interpreted as bow waves in previous studies. Additionally we reveal, for the first time, short (50-100 km) and long (500-600 km) wavelength TIDs with periods between 30 and 65 min (Eisenbeis et al., 2019). On 2nd July 2019 another total solar eclipse happened across the South American continent at magnetic conjugate latitudes as the Great American Eclipse, and consequently useful to visualize the difference response. Although for the South American eclipse we have only data from more than hundred GNSS stations and located in a zone close to the sunset, we can show the clear evidence of the ionospheric signature of the eclipse (Eisenbeis & Occhipinti in prep.a). The second major topic in this work is the still ongoing debate about the possibility of earthquake precursors. Heki (2011) sparked this debate when he published results of the Tohoku earthquake showing a TEC enhancement before the earthquake. The enhancement claimed by Heki (2011) has been interpreted as a decrease in the background TEC after the seismic event, the so called ionospheric hole in literature. The existence of the enhancement has been promoted by several papers (e.g. He & Heki, 2017) extending the observation to several events with moderate magnitude (M> 7.5) and proposes a new vision of the rupture dynamics. By trying to reproduce their results we show that the reference curve used by Heki (2011) to define the TEC background is strongly affected by the order of polynomial fit as well as the selected time windows. This shows that the TEC enhancement could be, in fact, just an artifact, subjectively selected to create the presumed precursor (Eisenbeis & Occhipinti in prep.b).