IRI Advances Using New Approaches

Volume 10, Number 2, September 1994
by Dieter Bilitza
During the month of July, a special task force activity at the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, explored new ways of improving critical elements of the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) model. ICTP is a science center funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UNESCO, and the Italian government, that has as its main objectives the support of advanced studies and research in physical and mathematical sciences, especially in the developing countries, and to provide an international forum for scientific contacts between scientists from all countries. A key participant and organizer of this ICTP meeting was Dr. Dieter Bilitza, IRI Chairperson and NSSDC/Hughes STX staff scientist.

Following an invitation of Sandro Radicella, the Director of ICTP's Atmospheric Physics and Radiopropagation Laboratory (APRL), a dozen scientists, half and half from developing and developed countries, convened at ICTP to focus on the modeling of ionospheric F1 layer characteristics in the IRI model. Improved global maps for these parameters will benefit studies and applications that require ray-tracing through the middle ionosphere. The F1 height marks the transition from molecular to atomic ions and/or the transition from the E-region chemical photoequilibrium (solar control) to the more dynamic F-region regime (controlled by the magnetic field geometry).

To accomplish the set task, the IRI team decided to test an approach different than the traditional meeting and workshop format. A small group of modellers and data providers met in front of computer terminals and blackboards to discuss and resolve a specific IRI modeling problem. The first week of the 3-week effort was primarily used for software, hardware and science preparations and also as a time-buffer for getting the arriving scientist familiarized with the computer systems.

The F1-region modeling problem was sub-divided into six well-defined well-focussed science questions. These topics were than tackled (one a day) during the second week with all participants present. During round-table discussions and presentations in the morning, a strategy was developed for testing and exploring particular modeling issues and assumptions and this was than followed in the afternoon with 2-3 person teams in front of computer terminals with access to ICTP's computer power and network connectivity. The last week was reserved for following up on the issues that had not been resolved during the previous week and also to polish-up plots and tables created during the workshop activity for later-date publication.

The task force activity was very successful and resulted in several recommendations for improvements of the IRI model and of ionogram data reduction in general. The activity was strongly endorsed by the IRI Working Group during its COSPAR meeting, and ICTP was encouraged to continue and possibly expand this type of activity. There was a general sense of accomplishment shared by all the participants. The effort showed what can be accomplished by a small group of scientists with a very focused ionospheric modeling problem and with access to computers and networks.

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