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What is Ionospheric Scintillation?

Ionospheric scintillation is the term given to irregularities in the ionosphere caused by so-called “space weather”. Key sources of ionospheric scintillation include solar winds and magnetic storms.

Historically, the level of scintillation has been seen to follow the 11-year solar cycle and peak at the time of maximum sunspot activity. Therefore the next peak is due in 2012. Scintillation occurs most frequently at tropical latitudes at night. It occurs less frequently at high latitudes or mid-latitudes.

Scintillation has a significant effect of scattering GNSS signals so that a receiver would perceive a satellite as irregularly moving around its actual position. It causes fluctuations in both the amplitude and phase of the carrier. And it is only recently that these effects have been adequately modelled.

High levels of scintillation, such as those experienced during the peak of the solar cycle, have traditionally caused problems for GNSS receivers. However, GNSS receivers can now be tested using newly developed scintillation models available in Spirent's SimGEN software. This means that the latest generations of receivers will be far better equipped to handle the high levels of scintillation due to occur in 2012.

 
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