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Authors: Pignalberi, Alessio* 
Pietrella, Marco* 
Pezzopane, Michael* 
Nava, Bruno* 
Cesaroni, Claudio* 
Title: The Ionospheric Equivalent Slab Thickness: A Review Supported by a Global Climatological Study Over Two Solar Cycles
Journal: Space Science Reviews 
Series/Report no.: /218 (2022)
Publisher: Springer
Issue Date: 13-Jun-2022
DOI: 10.1007/s11214-022-00909-z
Abstract: The ionospheric equivalent slab thickness (τ ) is a parameter characterizing both the distribution of the plasma in the ionosphere and the shape of the corresponding vertical electron density profile. It is calculated as the ratio of the vertical total electron content (vTEC) to the ionospheric F2-layer electron density maximum (NmF2). Since its definition dated back in the 60s, a lot of information on the behavior of τ for different helio-geophysical conditions has been cumulated and the connection with several plasma properties has been also demonstrated. The beginning of the Global Positioning System (GPS) era in the 90s had a strong effect on the studies about τ because GPS signals allow to obtain the vTEC up to about 20000 km of altitude. Recently, τ has also found application in many data-assimilation methodologies, especially for the improvement of empirical ionospheric models based on near real-time data. All of these topics are reviewed and discussed in this paper based on the literature published in the last sixty years. Moreover, to highlight and summarize the main global climatological features of τ, in this work we selected thirty-two ionospheric stations globally distributed and co-located with ground-based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers, for the last two solar cycles. This allowed to collect a dataset of NmF2 and vTEC that represents the largest and most complete ever analyzed for studies concerning τ , which gave the chance to deeply investigate its spatial, diurnal, seasonal, and solar activity variations. The corresponding results are presented and discussed in the light of the existing literature.
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