Articles | Volume 18, issue 5
Research article
17 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 17 Oct 2011

Dynamical changes of the polar cap potential structure: an information theory approach

I. Coco, G. Consolini, E. Amata, M. F. Marcucci, and D. Ambrosino

Abstract. Some features, such as vortex structures often observed through a wide spread of spatial scales, suggest that ionospheric convection is turbulent and complex in nature. Here, applying concepts from information theory and complex system physics, we firstly evaluate a pseudo Shannon entropy, H, associated with the polar cap potential obtained from the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) and, then, estimate the degree of disorder and the degree of complexity of ionospheric convection under different Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) conditions. The aforementioned quantities are computed starting from time series of the coefficients of the 4th order spherical harmonics expansion of the polar cap potential for three periods, characterised by: (i) steady IMF Bz > 0, (ii) steady IMF Bz < 0 and (iii) a double rotation from negative to positive and then positive to negative Bz. A neat dynamical topological transition is observed when the IMF Bz turns from negative to positive and vice versa, pointing toward the possible occurrence of an order/disorder phase transition, which is the counterpart of the large scale convection rearrangement and of the increase of the global coherence. This result has been confirmed by applying the same analysis to a larger data base of about twenty days of SuperDARN data, allowing to investigate the role of IMF By too.