SuperDARN

Super Dual Auroral Radar Network

Start date
29 September, 1993

The Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) has been operating as an international co-operative organisation for over 20 years, and has proved to be one of the most successful tools for studying dynamical processes in the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and neutral atmosphere. SuperDARN comprises similar ground-based coherent-scatter radars that operate in the HF frequency band, and whose fields of view combine to cover extensive regions of both the northern and southern polar ionospheres. From humble beginnings the network has now grown so that the fields of view of its 33 radars cover the majority of the northern and southern hemisphere polar ionospheres.

Science – SuperDARN facilitates a wide breadth of both magnetospheric and ionospheric science, particularly in the area of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, with notable unique results and breakthroughs:

  • Revolutionised the global mapping of ionospheric convection, with particular highlights being the observation of reverse convection cells during northward IMF, and the understanding of transient ionospheric flows driven by bursty and patchy magnetic reconnection.
  • Facilitated global measurements of energy flow into and out of the Earth’s magnetosphere via magnetic reconnection. SuperDARN measurements allowed the remote sensing of reconnection rates across the merging regions on both the dayside and nightside of the Earth.
  • Allowed the direct measurement of ionospheric vorticity, which provides a proxy for the field-aligned currents that couple processes in the magnetosphere and ionosphere.
  • Revolutionised the measurement and characterisation of small-scale ULF waves that cannot be measured by other ground-based instrumentation.
  • Allow the measurement and tracking of polar patches – regions of enhanced ionisation in the ionosphere that disrupt radio communications.
  • Through using the SuperDARN radars as meteor radars it has been possible to build up a global picture of tides in the mesosphere/lower thermosphere region of the atmosphere.

There are over 700 papers in the ISI Web of Science database which contain ‘SuperDARN’ in the title, abstract, or keywords.

SuperDARN at BAS – There are presently 16 SuperDARN Principal Investigator (PI) institutes worldwide, in 9 countries, running over 30 SuperDARN radars. BAS has been responsible for the operation of two SuperDARN radars, at Halley in Antarctica, and in the Falkland Islands. BAS also hosts one of two SuperDARN data hubs that collect and manage data from all SuperDARN radars for re-distribution to other SuperDARN PI groups and the worldwide science community. SuperDARN has helped significantly to address key questions that have been cornerstones of BAS science programmes over the last 20 years, e.g., regarding magnetic reconnection, ionospheric convection, and mesospheric tides. It now has a key role in the Space Weather and Atmosphere team’s project to routinely measure Joule heating in the upper atmosphere, and assess its contribution to satellite drag.