Articles | Volume 20, issue 12
31 Dec 2002
 | 31 Dec 2002

Modelling the effects of the October 1989 solar proton event on mesospheric odd nitrogen using a detailed ion and neutral chemistry model

P. T. Verronen, E. Turunen, Th. Ulich, and E. Kyrölä

Abstract. Solar proton events and electron precipitation affect the concentrations of middle atmospheric constituents. Ionization caused by precipitating particles enhances the production of important minor neutral constituents, such as nitric oxide, through reaction chains in which ionic reactions play an important role. The Sodankylä Ion Chemistry model (SIC) has been modified and extended into a detailed ion and neutral chemistry model of the mesosphere. Our steady-state model (containing 55 ion species, 8 neutral species, and several hundred chemical reactions) is used to investigate the effect of the October 1989 solar proton event on odd nitrogen at altitudes between 50–90 km. The modelling results show that the NO concentration is significantly enhanced due to the proton precipitation, reaching 107 –108 cm-3 throughout the mesosphere on the 20 October when the proton forcing was most severe. A comparison between the chemical production channels of odd nitrogen indicates that ion chemical reactions are an important factor in the total odd nitrogen production during intense ionization. The modelled electron concentration for the 23 October is compared with EISCAT incoherent scatter radar measurements and a reasonable agreement is found.

Key words. Atmospheric composition and structure (Middle atmosphere – composition and chemistry); Ionosphere (Particle precipitation)