The signature of the stable auroral red arc (SAR arc) as it appears on ionograms is described. The key features are a very significant increase in the amount of spread-F and a reduction in the maximum plasma density compared with regions just equatorward and poleward of the SAR arc Identification of the SAR arc signature is made by using complementary data from the global auroral imaging instrument on board the Dynamics Explorer-1 satellite. At sunspot minimum there is a positive correlation between the occurrence of spread-F on ionograms from Argentine Islands, Antarctica (65°S, 64°W; L = 2.3) and magnetic activity. In contrast, at sunspot maximum there is a weak negative correlation when the K magnetic index is less than 6. but a significant increase in spread-F occurrence at K ⩾ 6. Detailed study of ionograms shows that there are two distinct regions where considerable spread-F is observed. These are the region where SAR arcs occur and the poleward edge of the mid-latitude ionospheric trough. They are separated by a region associated with the trough minimum, where comparatively little spread-F is seen. It is suggested that the movement of these features to lower latitudes with increasing magnetic and solar activity can explain the lack of correspondence between variations of spread-F occurrence as a function of magnetic activity at sunspot maximum compared with that at sunspot minimum at Argentine Islands.