Definition of the Ionospheric Regions (Structures)

For convenience, we divide the Ionosphere into four broad regions called D, E, F, and topside. These regions may be further divided into several regularly occurring layers, such as F1 or F2.


The region between about 75 and 95km above the Earth in which the (relatively weak) ionization is mainly responsible for absorption of high-frequency radio waves.


The region between about 95 and 150km above the Earth that marks the height of the regular daytime E-layer. Other subdivisions, isolating separate layers of irregular occurrence within this region, are also labeled with an E prefix, such as the thick layer, E2, and a highly variable thin layer, Sporadic E. Ions in this region are mainly O2+.


The region above about 150km in which the important reflecting layer, F2, is found. Other layers in this region are also described using the prefix F, such as a temperate-latitude regular stratification, F1, and a low-latitude, semi-regular stratification, F1.5. Ions in the lower part of the F-layer are mainly NO+ and are predominantly O+ in the upper part. The F-layer is the region of primary interest to radio communications.


This part of the Ionosphere starts at the height of the maximum density of the F2 layer of the Ionosphere and extends upward with decreasing density to a transition height where O+ ions become less numerous than H+ and He+. The transition height varies but seldom drops below 500km at night or 800km in the daytime, although it may lie as high as 1100km. Above the transition height, the weak ionization has little influence on radio signals.