Articles | Volume 19, issue 1
31 Jan 2001
 | 31 Jan 2001

Sporadic Ca and Ca+ layers at mid-latitudes: Simultaneous observations and implications for their formation

M. Gerding, M. Alpers, J. Höffner, and U. von Zahn

Abstract. We report on the observations of 188 sporadic layers of either Ca atoms and/or Ca ions that we have observed during 112 nights of lidar soundings of Ca, and 58 nights of Ca+ soundings, at Kühlungsborn, Germany (54° N, 12° E). The Ca+ soundings have been performed simultaneously and in a common volume with the Ca soundings by two separate lidars. Correlations between sporadic neutral and ionized metal layers are demonstrated through four case studies. A systematic study of the variations of occurrence of sporadic Ca and Ca+ layers reveals that neutral and ionized Ca layers are not as closely correlated as expected earlier: (a) The altitude distribution shows the simultaneous occurrence of both sporadic Ca and Ca+ layers to be most likely only in the narrow altitude range between 90 and 95 km. Above that region, in the lower thermosphere, the sporadic ion layers are much more frequent than atom layers. Below 90 km only very few sporadic layers have been observed; (b) The seasonal variation of sporadic Ca layers exhibits a minimum of occurrence in summer, while sporadic Ca+ layers do not show a significant seasonal variation (only the dense Ca+ layers appear to have a maximum in summer). At mid-latitudes sporadic Ca layers are more frequent than sporadic layers of other atmospheric metals like Na or K. For the explanation of our observations new formation mechanisms are discussed.

Key words. Ionosphere (ion chemistry and composition; ionosphere-atmosphere interactions; mid-latitude ionosphere)