The ionosphere, Earth’s space environment, exhibits widespread turbulent structuring, or plasma irregularities, visualized by the auroral displays seen in Earth’s polar regions. Such plasma irregularities have been studied for decades, but plasma turbulence remains an elusive phenomenon. We combine scale-dependent measurements from a ground-based radar with satellite observations to characterize small-scale irregularities simultaneously in the bottomside and topside ionosphere and perform a statistical analysis on an aggregate from both instruments over time. We demonstrate the clear mapping of information vertically along the ionospheric altitude column, for field-perpendicular wavelengths down to 1.5 km. Our results paint a picture of the northern hemisphere high-latitude ionosphere as a turbulent system that is in a constant state of growth and decay; energy is being constantly injected and dissipated as the system is continuously attempting an accelerated return to equilibrium. We connect the widespread irregularity dissipation to Pedersen conductance in the E-region, and discuss the similarities between irregularities found in the polar cap and in the auroral region in that context. We find that the effects of a conducting E-region on certain turbulent properties (small-scale spectral index) is near ubiquitous in the dataset, and so we suggest that the electrodynamics of a conducting E-region must be considered when discussing plasma turbulence at high latitudes. This intimate relationship opens up the possibility that E-region conductivity is associated with the generation of F-region irregularities, though further studies are needed to assess that possibility.
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