Ionospheric modification by means of high-power electromagnetic (EM) waves can result in the excitation of a diverse range of plasma waves and instabilities. This thesis presents the development and application of a GPU-accelerated finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) code designed to simulate the time-explicit response of an ionospheric plasma to incident EM waves. Validation tests are presented in which the code achieved good agreement with the predictions of plasma theory and the computations of benchmark software.
The code was used to investigate the mechanisms behind several recent experimental observations which have not been fully understood, including the effect of 2D density inhomogeneity on the O-mode to Z-mode conversion process and thus the shape of the conversion window, and the influence of EM wave polarisation and frequency on the growth of density irregularities.
The O-to-Z-mode conversion process was shown to be responsible for a strong dependence of artificially-induced plasma perturbation on both the EM wave inclination angle and the 2D characteristics of the background plasma. Allowing excited Z-mode waves to reflect back towards the interaction region was found to cause enhancement of the electric field and a substantial increase in electron temperature.
Simulations of O-mode and X-mode polarised waves demonstrated that both are capable of exciting geomagnetic field-aligned density irregularities, particularly at altitudes where the background plasma frequency corresponds to an electron gyroharmonic. Inclusion of estimated electrostatic fields associated with irregularities in the simulation algorithm resulted in an enhanced electron temperature. Excitation of these density features could address an observed asymmetry in anomalous absorption and recent unexplained X-mode heating results reported at EISCAT.
Comparing simulations with ion motion allowed or suppressed indicated that a parametric instability was responsible for irregularity production. Simulation of EM wave fields confirmed that X-mode waves are capable of exceeding the threshold for parametric instability excitation under certain conditions.