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Estimating the Impacts of Radiation Belt Electrons on Atmospheric Chemistry using FIREBIRD II and Van Allen Probes Observations

Abstract This study considers the impact of electron precipitation from Earth s radiation belts on atmospheric composition using observations from the NASA Van Allen Probes and NSF Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics (FIREBIRD II) CubeSats. Ratios of electron flux between the Van Allen Probes (in near-equatorial orbit in the radiation belts) and FIREBIRD II (in polar low Earth orbit) during spacecraft conjunctions (2015-2017) allow an estimate of precipitation into the atmosphere. Total Radiation Belt Electron Content, calculated from Van Allen Probes RBSP-ECT MagEIS data, identifies a sustained 10-day electron loss event in March 2013 that serves as an initial case study. Atmospheric ionization profiles, calculated by integrating monoenergetic ionization rates across the precipitating electron flux spectrum, provide input to the NCAR Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model in order to quantify enhancements of atmospheric HOx and NOx and subsequent destruction of O3 in the middle atmosphere. Results suggest that current APEEP parameterizations of radiation belt electrons used in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project may underestimate the duration of events as well as higher energy electron contributions to atmospheric ionization and modeled NOx concentrations in the mesosphere and upper stratosphere.

Duderstadt, K.; Huang, C.-L.; Spence, H.; Smith, S.; Blake, J.; Crew, A.; Johnson, A.; Klumpar, D.; Marsh, D.; Sample, J.; Shumko, M.; Vitt, F.;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres      Published on: 03/2021

YEAR: 2021     DOI:

electron precipitation; Radiation belts; ozone; Atmospheric Ionization; Van Allen Probes; FIREBIRD


Mesospheric ozone destruction by high-energy electron precipitation associated with pulsating aurora

Energetic particle precipitation into the upper atmosphere creates excess amounts of odd nitrogen and odd hydrogen. These destroy mesospheric and upper stratospheric ozone in catalytic reaction chains, either in situ at the altitude of the energy deposition or indirectly due to transport to other altitudes and latitudes. Recent statistical analysis of satellite data on mesospheric ozone reveals that the variations during energetic electron precipitation from Earth\textquoterights radiation belts can be tens of percent. Here we report model calculations of ozone destruction due to a single event of pulsating aurora early in the morning on 17 November 2012. The presence of high-energy component in the precipitating electron flux (>200 keV) was detected as ionization down to 68 km altitude, by the VHF incoherent scatter radar of European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) Scientific Association (EISCAT VHF) in Troms\o, Norway. Observations by the Van Allen Probes satellite B showed the occurrence of rising tone lower band chorus waves, which cause the precipitation. We model the effect of high-energy electron precipitation on ozone concentration using a detailed coupled ion and neutral chemistry model. Due to a 30 min, recorded electron precipitation event we find 14\% odd oxygen depletion at 75 km altitude. The uncertainty of the higher-energy electron fluxes leads to different possible energy deposition estimates during the pulsating aurora event. We find depletion of odd oxygen by several tens of percent, depending on the precipitation characteristics used in modeling. The effect is notably maximized at the sunset time following the occurrence of the precipitation.

Turunen, Esa; Kero, Antti; Verronen, Pekka; Miyoshi, Yoshizumi; Oyama, Shin-Ichiro; Saito, Shinji;

Published by: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres      Published on: 10/2016

YEAR: 2016     DOI: 10.1002/2016JD025015

EISCAT; electron precipitation; ion chemistry; mesosphere; ozone; pulsating aurora; Van Allen Probes