Following a brief history and progress of ionospheric research, this paper presents a brief review of the recent developments in the understanding of two major phenomena in low and mid latitude ionosphere—the equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) and involved equatorial plasma fountain (EPF) and ionospheric irregularities. Unlike the easy-to-understand misinterpretations, the EPF involves field perpendicularE×B plasma drift and field-aligned plasma diffusion acting together and plasma flowing in the direction of the resultant at all points along the field lines at all altitudes. The EIA is formed mainly from the removal of plasma from around the equator by the upward E×B drift creating the trough and consequently the crests with small accumulation of plasma at the crests when the crests are within ~±20° magnetic latitudes and no accumulation when they are beyond ~±25° magnetic latitudes. The strong EIA under magnetically active conditions arises from the simultaneous impulsive action of eastward prompt penetration electric field and equatorward neutral wind. Intense ionospheric irregularities develop in the post-sunset bottom-side equatorial ionosphere when it rises to high altitudes, and evolve nonlinearly into the topside. Pre-reversal enhancement (PRE) of the vertical upward E×B drift and its fluctuations amplified during PRE provide the driving force and seed, with neutral wind and gravity waves being the primary sources. At low solar activity especially in summer when fast varying PRE is absent, the slow varying gravity waves including large scale waves (LSW) seem to act as both driver and seed for weak irregularities. At mid latitudes, the irregularities are weak and associated with medium scale traveling ionospheric disturbances (MSTIDs). A low latitude minimum in the occurrence of the irregularities at March equinox predicted by theoretical models is identified. The minimum occurs on the poleward side of the EIA crest and shifts equatorward from ~25° magnetic latitudes at high solar activity to below 17° at low solar activity.
On 21 June 2020, an annular solar eclipse will traverse the low latitudes from Africa to Southeast Asia. The highest latitude of the maximum eclipse obscuration is approximately 30°. This low-latitude solar eclipse provides a unique and unprecedented opportunity to explore the impact of the eclipse on the low-latitude ionosphere–thermosphere (I–T) system, especially in the equatorial ionization anomaly region. In this study, we describe a quantitative prediction of the impact of this upcoming solar eclipse on the I–T system by using Thermosphere–Ionosphere–Electrodynamics General Circulation Model simulations. A prominent total electron content (TEC) enhancement of around 2 TEC units occurs in the equatorial ionization anomaly region even when this region is still in the shadow of the eclipse. This TEC enhancement lasts for nearly 4.5 hours, long after the solar eclipse has ended. Further model control simulations indicate that the TEC increase is mainly caused by the eclipse-induced transequatorial plasma transport associated with northward neutral wind perturbations, which result from eclipse-induced pressure gradient changes. The results illustrate that the effect of the solar eclipse on the I–T system is not transient and linear but should be considered a dynamically and energetically coupled system.