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Research Roundup: Atmospheric effects on GNSS

December 5, 2022  - By
Photo: buradaki/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: buradaki/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

GNSS researchers presented hundreds of papers at the 2022 Institute of Navigation (ION) GNSS+ conference, which took place Sept. 19–23 in Denver, Colorado, and virtually. The following five papers focused on atmospheric effects on GNSS signals. The papers are available at 

Addressing Scintillation Error

Mitigating the scintillation effect at low latitude is a complex matter: several kinds of experimental data must be collected, realistic models must be developed, and, most importantly, useful real-time indices and alerts must be made available.

The authors introduce a prototype based on a patent owned by SpacEarth Technology to address scintillation error detection and mitigation, supporting precision GNSS-based services at low latitudes in any season and space weather conditions. The patent relates to a method of total electron content (TEC) and scintillation empirical forecasting, in particular short-term forecasting (seconds to minutes). The output of the method is necessary to feed mitigation algorithms aiming at improving accuracy on GNSS precise positioning techniques (RTK, NRTK, and PPP) under ionospheric harsh conditions.

The prototype is designed with a Central Elaborating Facility, which collects the data provided by a network of GNSS monitoring stations detecting scintillation events, and broadcasts foreseen scintillation parameters. Users with a rover mitigation device can apply the parameters from the central facility for scintillation error mitigation. 

Vincenzo Romano, INGV and SpacEarth Technology; Claudio Cesaroni, INGV; Luca Spogli, Alessandro Fiorini, INGV and SpacEarth Technology; Marco Fermi, Gter; Lorenzo Benvenuto, Gter and University of Genoa; Tiziano Cosso, Gter; Marcin Grzesiak, SRC/PAS; Joao Francisco Galera Monico, Italo Tsuchiya, UNESP; Gabriel Oliveira, Marcos Guandalini; “Ionospheric Scintillation Mitigation at Low Latitude to Improve Navigation Quality.”

Ring of Fire GUARDIAN 

Commonly, natural hazards release energy into the Earth’s atmosphere in the form of acoustic-gravity waves, which propagate up to the ionosphere. The resulting traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs) can be detected using GNSS signals, through the computation of the integrated total electron content (TEC) along the lines of sight between GNSS receivers and satellites. The global distribution of ground-based GNSS receivers constantly tracking multiple GNSS constellations (GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, BeiDou, and others) provides excellent spatio-temporal coverage around the world, including in areas of limited coverage by existing warning systems.

The authors present the operational GNSS-based Upper Atmospheric Real-time Disaster Information and Alert Network (GUARDIAN). Based on dual-frequency GNSS data from the Global Differential GPS (GDGPS) network of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the GUARDIAN architecture computes slant TEC time series in near real time.

As part of the GDGPS network, 78 stations around the Pacific ring of fire monitor the four GNSS constellations: GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou. Cycle slips are corrected and the time series are filtered, both in real time. The resulting data stream is output live to a user-friendly public website, benefitting the general public and the scientific community. 

The current GUARDIAN focuses on the Pacific region. However, the architecture can readily be extended to a worldwide coverage.

Léo Martire, S. Krishnamoorthy, L. J. Romans, B. Szilágyi, P. Vergados, A. W. Moore, A. Komjáthy, Y. E. Bar-Sever, A. B. Craddock, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; “GUARDIAN: A Near Real-Time Ionospheric Monitoring System for Natural Hazards Early Warnings.”

Civil Aviation Interference

The authors provide a survey on GNSS receiver architectures with emphasis on new carrier-tracking techniques for mitigating the adverse effect of ionospheric scintillation within the context of civil aviation. The survey is complemented by results gathered from simulations on the impact of ionospheric scintillation in conventional receiver architectures. A review on scintillation mitigation techniques is carried out, covering several “technique families,” highlighting their potential for performance improvement, as well as their shortcomings and challenges in implementation.

A semi-analytical simulation campaign is carried out for different modulations: L1, L5 for GPS, and E1, E5a for Galileo. Here, the performance of a standard receiver tracking a set of GPS and Galileo satellites affected by ionospheric scintillation is analyzed to pinpoint existing vulnerabilities to this effect.

The simulation results show that ionospheric scintillations are responsible for large variations in carrier-to-noise ratio, which in turn can be responsible for losses of lock and large phase variations, increasing phase RMSE and in some cases leading to cycle slips of the phase estimation. Thus, the adopted solution must be robust to signal power fluctuations and the occurrence of cycle slips and able to maintain phase lock.

António Negrinho, GMV-PT Pedro Boto, GMV-PT Marta Cueto, GMV-ES Mikael Mabilleau, EUSPA Claudia Paparini, EUSPA Ettore Canestri, EUSPA; “Survey on Signal Processing Techniques for GNSS Ionospheric Scintillation Mitigation.”

Tonga Eruption Data Analyzed

Extreme natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, can create visible pressure waves in the atmosphere and trigger observable ionospheric wave responses that can travel hundreds of kilometers in the ionosphere. The acoustic and gravity waves generated can cause ionospheric TEC perturbations and variations. The TEC determines the GNSS ionospheric delay and can cause significant positioning errors, which may affect the performance of GNSS-based applications.

The researchers processed GNSS data collected from the Hong Kong Satellite Positioning Reference Station Network to analyze the ionospheric activity and positioning performance responding to the Tonga volcanic eruption on Jan. 15, 2022. To detect and repair cycle-slip jumps, the researchers applied theTEC rate and Melbourne Wubbena Wide Lane (MWWL) linear combinations. A Savitzky-Golay low-pass filter with a 30s window was used to improve the TEC accuracy.

The team investigated the changes in TEC, Rate of TEC index (ROTI) and positioning errors in the eastward, northward and upward directions after the anomalous ionospheric propagation to Hong Kong between 11:30 and 14:30. The team found the ionospheric anomaly could generate large changes in the three parameters, with peaks up to three times the calm period. Their prompt research contributes to a better understanding of the coupling of extreme ionospheric activities and dynamics caused by volcanic eruptions. 

Xiaojia Chang, Kai Guo, Zhipeng Wang, Kun Fang, Hongxia Wang, Beihang University; Hailong Chen, China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology; “Ionospheric Anomaly and GNSS Positioning Responses to the January 2022 Tonga Volcanic Eruption.” 

Toolbox for Monitor Network

The MONITORtoolbox is a set of Python-coded software tools to perform automatized large-scale processing of data from the Monitor network of the European Space Agency (ESA). The Monitor network aims to continuously monitor ionospheric scintillation events from multiple ground stations strategically located around the globe. It accommodates a repository with a large number of GNSS measurements containing scintillation events for users to analyze scintillation data or for research purposes.

This paper shows the potential of the MONITORtoolbox for providing access to a large amount of data that otherwise, without a systematic processing, becomes practically useless. The software developed implements the means to collect data and store it in a local database for quick offline access. It detects the presence of scintillation events based on certain conditions and criteria defined by the user and identifies its properties in terms of duration, time of occurrence, intensity and satellite location. It implements the tools to compute relevant statistics, providing insights on ionospheric scintillation phenomena.

Sergi Locubiche-Serra, Alejandro Pérez-Conesa, Diego Fraile-Parra, Gonzalo Seco-Granados, José A. López-Salcedo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, IEEC-CERES; Juan M. Parro-Jiménez, Raúl Orús-Pérez, ESTEC, European Space Agency; “MONITORtoolbox — Software Tool for the Analysis of Ionospheric Scintillation Data from the ESA Monitor Network.” 

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.