pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 118, Issue 1, pp 128–151 | Cite as

The importance of energetic particle precipitation on the chemical composition of the middle atmosphere

  • Richard Mansergh Thorne


An assessment is made of the relative contribution of certain classes of energetic particle precipitation to the chemical composition of the middle atmosphere with emphasis placed on the production of odd nitrogen and odd hydrogen species and their subsequent role in the catalytic removal of ozone. Galactic cosmic radiation is an important source of odd nitrogen in the lower stratosphere but since the peak energy deposition occurs below the region where catalytic removal of O3 is most effective, it is questionable whether this mechanism is important in the overall terrestrial ozone budget. The precipitation of energetic solar protons can periodically produce dramatic enhancement in upper stratospheric NO. The long residence time of NO in this region of the atmosphere, where catalytic interaction with O3 is also most effective, mandates that this mechanism be included in future modelling of the global distribution of O3. Throughout the mesosphere the precipitation of energetic electrons from the outer radiation belt (60°≲Λ≲70°) can sporadically act as a major local source of odd hydrogen and odd nitrogen leading to observable O3 depletion. Future satellite studies should be directed at simultaneously measuring the precipitation flux and the concomitant atmosphere modification, and these results should be employed to develop more sophisticated models of this important coupling.

Key words

Galactic cosmic rays Solar proton events Particle precipitation Chemistry 


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© Birkhäuser Verlag 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Mansergh Thorne
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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